Smart data analytics for climate protection:

Using mobile data to calculate air pollution

- A cooperation of Telefónica Germany with South Pole Group, specializing in sustainability solutions, the data analytics expert Teralytics and the city of Nuremberg - There’s something in the air: Cities like Nuremberg are struggling with an increasingly high pollution with CO2, atmospheric particular matter and nitrogen oxide. They are urgently searching for a solution for clean air in the city. Before initiating concrete measures, however, they have to collect precise data. Only this way can cities determine where the pollution is particularly high. This is where smart data analysis can be helpful: Telefónica Germany is part of a pilot project that calculates the quality of air with the help of mobile data which is a great deal more comprehensively than has previously been the case. If the project is a success, cities will be able to draw from entirely new possibilities in their fight against smog. The research project is funded by Low Carbon City Lab (LoCaL), an EU programme by Climate-KIC. It is being launched in Nuremberg and is planned to be expanded to further cities at a later point.
Up until now, measuring the quality of air has involved great efforts for cities. They employ and pay for people to sit at street crossings and take note of the traffic. This is not only expensive, it is also inaccurate. As part of a pilot project, Telefónica Germany, South Pole Group, Teralytics and the city of Nuremberg are trying to find a better solution. In opposition to conventional methods of measurement, this solution is based on an entirely different resource: mobile data. By participating in this pilot project, Telefónica Germany demonstrates that, as a responsible company, it does not only improve quality of life by offering digital solutions, it can also contribute to climate protection.

Mobile data helps protect the environment

How quickly do people travel? What distance do they cover with which means of transport? Mobile data can be used to determine flows of traffic and to derive the extent of pollution. This data is created automatically, when mobile devices communicate with the mobile communication cells of Telefónica Germany while making calls, browsing or sending texts. As a result, the sample of data is larger than during manual measurements as well as less expensive. Customer data remains fully protected during this process. Telefónica Germany anonymizes the exploited data using a three-stage procedure and removes any reference to individuals. Conclusions can thus only be made regarding larger groups of people.

Pilot project launched in Nuremberg

Nuremberg is currently working on a new plan for clean air. If the pilot project is a success, the insights and derivations gained from it could be included in the plan. To this end, the emissions of the years 2015 and 2016 are being compared in Nuremberg. As Germany’s largest mobile communications provider in terms of costumer base, Telefónica Germany provides the anonymized mobile data. On behalf of Telefónica, Teralytics converts this data to flows of movement using their specifically developed algorithm in Telefónica’s data centres, from which South Pole Group derives the extent of pollution. By means of comparison, the pilot project uses existing data on the city’s quality of air. This data is derived from measuring stations, weather data as well as traffic data from traffic censuses. Using these results, the Municipality of Nuremberg plans to initiate measures specifically in those regions with the worst quality of air. For instance, the municipal administration might replace means of transport that cause high emissions with transport that is low in emission and expand their cycle tracks, in order to encourage more Nuremberg citizens to cycle to work. In addition, a comparison of data from 2015 shows whether the measures taken by the Municipality last year have already influenced the emission values. This would bear great relevance for negotiations with investors and authorities as well as for discussions with the citizens. The research project is funded by Low Carbon City Lab (LoCaL), an EU programme of Climate-KIC. LoCaL aims to reduce 1 gigatonne of CO2 a year starting 2050 and, at the same time, to mobilize 25 billion Euros for financing municipal climate protection.

Stakeholder quotes

Markus Haas, COO of Telefónica Germany: “A large number of data is available to us through our standard business processes, including a large percentage of data that is only produced for us as a network operator, for instance mobility data. This pilot project shows that we can contribute to climate protection by analyzing data. We plan to realize further projects in the future for which our mobility data can provide added value for society.”
Dr. Peter Pluschke, city council and head of the business unit environment and health: “The city of Nuremberg is highly committed to questions regarding the environment. We take great interest in better understanding our quality of air and the dispersion of air pollutants, in order for us to act accordingly. For this reason, we didn’t hesitate long. It is a pleasure for us to volunteer as pilot city.”
Renat Heuberger, CEO South Pole Group: “The accurate measurement of CO2 and short-lived air pollutants in cities is a complex task. Through our pilot project, we can develop an entirely new approach to assist in this task not only cities like Nuremberg, but also cities in emerging countries, who are faced with rapidly increasing emissions. This new method could significantly contribute to ensuring better climate protection in the urban space.”
Georg Polzer, CEO and founder of Teralytics: “Anonymized mobile data provides us with previously unknown insights into the population’s flows of movement. With the pilot project we want to demonstrate that analyzing this large amount of data enables us to contribute both an economic as well as a social added value.”
Victor Gancel, programme manager at Low Carbon City Labs (LoCaL) of Climate KIC: “We are convinced that this research project will improve the measurement of the quality of urban air. The precise and cost-effective measurement is an important prerequisite for the future financing of climate protection measures.”

About the project partners

Telefónica Deutschland Holding AG, with its operating subsidiaries Telefónica Germany GmbH & Co. OHG and E-Plus Mobilfunk GmbH, is listed in the Prime Standard at the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. The company offers its German private and business customers post-paid and prepaid mobile communications products as well as innovative mobile data services based on GPRS, UMTS and LTE technologies with its product brand O2 as well as several secondary and partner brands. In addition, the integrated communications provider also offers fixed line products such as DSL telephony for private customers and innovative IP telephony and networking solutions for business customers. The offer is topped off with modern high-speed internet products. With a total of 48.3 million customer lines (as of 31 March 2016), the company is one of the three leading integrated telecommunications providers in Germany. In the mobile segment alone, Telefónica Germany is responsible for 43.0 million lines – making it the German market leader. In the 2015 financial year, the company generated revenue of 7.89 billion euros. Telefónica Germany is part of the Spanish telecommunications group Telefónica S.A. with its headquarters in Madrid. With a presence in 21 countries and a customer base of 322 million lines, the Telefónica Group is one of the largest telecommunications companies in the world. South Pole Group (SPG) is a leading provider of global sustainability solutions that help public and private actors develop climate proven policies and strategies. Its vision is to create a sustainable society and economy that positively impact the world’s climate, ecosystems and communities. Pioneering emission reduction and renewable energy projects, the firm’s portfolio is now the largest available on the market. SPG’s four key business lines are carbon credit solutions, renewable energy, sustainability advisory and green finance. Areas of expertise cover the climate change-related areas of forests & land use, water, sustainable cities & buildings, and renewable energy & energy efficiency. Teralytics is a specialist in the data analysis for the telecommunications industry. Our technology analyzes large amounts of Telecom data, one of the most valuable sources of data about human behavior. Teralytics acquires therefrom value-creating information about motions flows, demographics and interests of the population. We help companies in the financial, retail and transportation branches to develop better products and services. Teralytics together with its telecom partners closely follows the respective regulatory and legal frameworks. Teralytics is a strong partner of leading telecom companies in the monetization of their data in North America, Europe and Asia. Climate-KIC is the largest European innovation initiative for climate-friendly technologies. Launched as EU program 2010, climate-KIC supports with offices in 15 European countries innovation projects, startups and young innovators. Numerous partners from industry and commerce, science, public sector and civil society work in Climate-KIC on groundbreaking, scalable innovations to fight climate changes.