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Port Talbot to monitor air pollution in residential areas

Neath Port Talbot Council is to begin a pioneering air quality monitoring project aimed at providing accurate “real time” measurement of pollution so solutions for greener, healthier communities can be found.

The project, the first of its kind in Wales, is a pilot study testing the concept of localised air pollution monitoring and is part of the Swansea Bay City Deal programme and is delivered as part of the council’s Decarbonisation and Renewable Energy (DARE) Strategy.

Entitled ‘Supporting Innovation and Low Carbon Growth’, it is led by Neath Port Talbot Council which will be collaborating with South Wales based Vortex IoT (Internet of Things) – a highly skilled team of engineers with expertise in emerging technologies, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and connected smart devices (IoT).

The aim of the pilot study, which will harness the power of digital technology, is to achieve a much better understanding of air quality on a local level.
Better measurement means the council can more effectively target interventions, identify any pollution hotspots and pollution sources that were previously hidden and help it improve air quality and health outcomes.
This pilot project will see 70 digital sensors being attached to lampposts in some residential areas in Port Talbot. The area will act as a test bed for the technology and will provide instant, real time data on how air quality varies between different neighbourhoods.

The sensors will be in areas ranging from Margam, spanning across to higher density monitoring centred around Taibach and from Aberavon to Sandfields and the periphery of Baglan Energy Park.

Vortex IoT is a market leader in its field and the company’s devices are being used in one of the biggest air quality monitoring projects in Europe in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. Vortex IoT will provide the sensors, wireless network and maintenance support for the project.

The company is about to move into premises in the refurbished former Metal Box factory site in Neath which has been transformed into a business zone by Neath Port Talbot Council. Vortex IoT plans to create up to 50 highly skilled engineering and advanced manufacturing jobs in the next 18 months.

The Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Cllr Ted Latham, said: “Air quality isn’t the same everywhere and pollution can build up in isolated pockets. Local sources, for example industry or a busy road and even rail infrastructure can affect air quality.”

Councillor Leanne Jones, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Community Safety and Public Protection added: “Because different areas have different levels of air quality at different times it is important for us to measure, monitor and analyse what is happening and where. That way we can identify trouble spots and take the right steps to ensure we all enjoy the clearest air possible.

“This project is in line with our smart and connected digital strategy, which aims to make sure that our county borough takes full advantage of the benefits of new technologies.”

Neath Port Talbot Council and other organisations, including the Welsh Government, have been undertaking air quality monitoring in Neath Port Talbot for many years. Traditionally, air quality monitoring has centred on the existing Automatic Urban and Rural Network (AURN) air quality station situated within the grounds of Taibach Fire Station.

However, advancements in digital technology mean that hyperlocal monitoring providing instant data about potential pollution sources can move into other areas.

The localised approach to air quality monitoring will provide the project with a verified source of real time air quality data that can be linked to events within that community, for example traffic flows, industrial processes etc.

Adrian Sutton, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Vortex IoT, said: “We are really privileged to be working with Neath Port Talbot Council and Swansea Bay City Deal on this pioneering project. I live in the area and our company has its roots in the Swansea Bay City region. The opportunity to deliver an environmental impact to the community in which we are based and to contribute to improved air quality and decarbonisation is one we are truly excited about.  We will go above and beyond to deliver value to the residents of Neath Port Talbot.”