SUCCESS STORIES

IMC4T

IMC4T is developing a monitoring system that uses anonymised mobile phone data to identify transport use and behaviour in cities.

This information can then be used to quantify related emissions of greenhouse gases and pollutants.

Key points

  • Transportation accounts for 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions
  • It is the worst-performing sector in Europe in terms of reducing emissions
  • Traffic congestion costs the EU around €100 billion annually
  • Monitoring transportation use and behaviour in cities to target emission mitigation schemes is costly, time-consuming and can lack accuracy
  • The IMC4T project – part of Climate-KIC’s LoCaL flagship programme – is developing a way to measure urban mobility flows more cheaply and accurately by leveraging data harvested from mobile phones
  • The system is being piloted in Nuremberg

Project Background and Drivers

Transportation is a major contributor to climate change, accounting for around one-fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions. Within the EU, urban transportation accounts for an estimated 40 percent of all vehicular CO2 emissions, and is the biggest source of air pollution in cities. Traffic congestion costs EU members around €100 billion each year. Despite these impacts, transportation remains the worst-performing sector in terms of reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

In July this year, the European Commission adopted a low emission mobility strategy with a stated aim that by 2050, greenhouse gas emissions from transport will be 60 percent lower than they were in 1990. This will be achieved, the strategy suggests, through greater deployment of low-emission modes of transportation and a switch to alternative energy sources and zero-emission vehicles.

To make informed decisions and to target investment efficiently, however, there is a need to understand how people move around their cities. The standard methods of monitoring mobility flows in cities – having people stand at intersections counting vehicles, for example, or conducting household surveys – are expensive in terms of manpower, time-consuming, and can be inaccurate.

“The most limiting aspect [of these methods] is that they only provide a snapshot,” says Denis Jorisch, a consultant at global sustainability solutions provider South Pole Group. “It’s not continuous monitoring.”

Project Detail

The IMC4T project, innovative monitoring of CO2 for transport, is working on a solution based on mobile phone technology that could potentially address all these issues. The project is part of Climate-KIC’s LoCaL flagship programme, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1Gt annually and unlock €25bn of climate finance for cities by 2050.

The idea behind IMC4T is to monitor urban mobility flows by examining the data generated by mobile phone users as they move around a city. “Every time you text or make a call or check an email, the phone connects to the nearest mobile phone tower. There is a constant exchange between the phone and the network,” Jorisch explains. “Based on that you help create a data footprint within the city landscape.”

The project is currently being piloted in Nuremberg. There, South Pole Group has partnered with mobile operator Telefonica, which passes the data generated by phone users in the city. The data is carefully

anonymised by Telefonica in a three-stage process, making it impossible to identify the movements of individual users. The final data is then passed along to another key project partner, a Swiss company called Teralytics, which specialises in processing big data.

“Teralytics has developed algorithms that enable it to see how groups of people are moving in a city,” says Jorisch. “By matching individuals’ movements and speeds to the various transport modes within the city, the system will be able to determine whether they are in a train, for example, or have been sitting in traffic.”

South Pole Group’s goal is to complete the development of a method that will translate this data into a quantification of greenhouse gas emissions and an accurate overview of levels of air pollutants. By using this methodology to compare data collected from Nuremberg’s citizens in 2015 and 2016, the city of Nuremberg hopes to be able to better target its resources and to gauge the impact of measures it has taken to improve air quality and reduce emissions over that period.

The project is still in its early stages, but the team is hopeful it will have a sizeable impact on the costs and accuracy of monitoring greenhouse gas emissions from urban transportation. “If you are trying to promote more public transportation usage, for example, you could track how this affects emissions because you will have a constant measurement,” says Jorisch. “So, for example, if you have a new bus line, you could see if there is a shift from private to public transportation.”

There is optimism, too, that this project will be of help to cities in developing economies, where transportation emissions and pollutants are a much greater problem. “Low-carbon transport projects in emerging countries are expensive,” says Jorisch. “If you are able to reduce the costs of monitoring, or you are able to pinpoint how to reduce emissions or pollution by identifying hotspots, cities could attack the problems and invest their money in a much more targeted way.”

Climate-KIC Support

Aside from its role as core funder, Climate-KIC has been instrumental in bringing the partners together for this project. As well as the private companies involved in the project, South Pole Group has been working with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology in Trondheim, which has been helping to review the methodology, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.

“The great thing about working with Climate-KIC is the way they foster the connection between public and private organisations,” says Jorisch. “They have leveraged their network that holds a plethora of companies and organisations to get input from all different sides – this is essential when developing new solutions. Robust exchange between business and research is crucial to fostering innovation and tackling complex problems like climate change.”

IMC4T plans to turn its research and the results from its partnership with Nuremberg into a methodology that can be used not just by cities, but also by private companies looking to invest in green urban transportation projects – measuring the impact of financing an e-bike scheme, for example.

The partners plan to expand outside Europe, too, says Jorisch – and having a global mobile phone company like Telefonica on board can only help: “Working with them in Germany helps us get in touch with firms working with companies in places like Argentina and Colombia, which is interesting because their traffic is much more of a problem than in Europe, for example,” he says. “It would be great to move this to emerging and developing economies.”

By matching individuals’ movements and speeds to the various transport modes within the city, the system will be able to determine whether they are in a train, for example, or have been sitting in traffic.

Denis Jorisch, South Pole Group

 

For more information visit local.climate-kic.org/projects/innovative-monitoring-of-co2-for-transport

 
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