CeADAR, Ireland’s centre for Applied AI, has completed a €350,000 project in Vietnam using Artificial Intelligence (AI) to track air pollution in its cities and reduce its impact on citizens.
The Healthy Air Project is a collaboration with Vietnam National University and was co-funded by the Irish Research Council (IRC) and Irish Aid. CeADAR, headquartered at NexusUCD, is funded by Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland.
The project is using AI and machine learning to reduce the impact of air pollution on residents of Vietnam’s most densely populated cities – including Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi — where the primary form of transport is the motorbike.
The first task was to purchase and install the infrastructure required for measuring air quality – six air quality monitoring stations were erected across the city. With a population of almost nine million, Ho Chi Minh City had just one air quality monitoring station, located at the US embassy, prior to the project. In contrast, Ireland’s five million population is serviced by more than 100 air monitoring stations across the country.
Using machine learning technology, the team can predict changes to pollution levels in different areas of the city a day or two in advance. Real-time data on air quality in specific areas of the city is then communicated in real time to citizens using the AI-powered Healthy Air app.
This information – which is colour-coded red, amber and green — allows people to make informed choices about whether to travel to particular areas on days when the air quality index (AQI) is in the red. It also is hoped the data gathered will help policymakers make decisions to help reduce air pollution in Ho Chi Minh City.
According to a report from the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, Ho Chi Minh City’s 8.8 million residents own 7.3 million motorbikes. There are around 7,300 premature deaths each year in Ho Chi Minh due to airborne particles that penetrate deep into lungs, causing respiratory and cardiovascular problems. Air pollutants are particularly harmful to the most vulnerable in the society, such as children and older people.
The long-term aim of ‘Healthy Air’ is to roll out the project to other cities in Vietnam, while also raising awareness about the hazard air pollution poses to the health of people living in densely populated urban areas.
Longer-term, it is hoped that the Healthy Air project can be used as a blueprint to service other densely populated urban cities, where unchecked air pollution continues to pose a threat to the health of citizens.
The interdisciplinary team from both CeADAR at University College Dublin and Vietnam National University was composed of Dr Ricardo Simon Carbajo (AI), Professor Bang Quoc Ho (Air Quality), Mr Le Van Hinh (Policy), Ms Khue Vu (Air Quality), Dr Thoaitam Nguyen (Air Quality), Dr David Haughton (AI), Dr Quan Le (AI) and Dr Rajnish Rakholia (AI).
Ricardo Simon Carbajo, Director of Innovation and Development at CeADAR and leader of the Healthy Air Project, says:
“We are delighted with the progress of the Healthy Air project and are grateful to Irish Research Council and Irish Aid for providing the funding necessary so that we can contribute to make a tangible difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable people on earth. Motorbikes account for the vast majority of air pollution in Vietnam’s urban capitals. Through the project we could see the extent of the pollution issue, not just in terms of the concentrations of particles in the air but also the lack of awareness of its long-term impacts on public health.
“Partnering with the Vietnamese National University, we built an air quality monitoring system for Ho Chi Minh City effectively from scratch. Previously, Vietnam’s largest city had no indigenous monitoring stations as its sole existing station was housed on the grounds of the US Embassy.
We hope that these measures will eventually lead to an increased consciousness of air quality among the general population, educating them about how their environment is impacting their health and forcing lawmakers to make fundamental changes – such as introducing a retrofitting scheme to cut emissions from cars and motorbikes which would bring great benefits.
“The media coverage the project received in Vietnam was very positive, including being broadcast on national television, and it was supported by key high-level stakeholders from government, academia and industry in Vietnam. The project has also received awards for its impact in society and we look forward to building on its success in the coming years.”