The prospects look promising for the deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) in the quest for a clean and liveable environment in urban settings with an emphasis on a smart green and liveable city. In particular, it should give special importance to ‘emissions abatement’ because reducing emissions intensity and volume will lower particulate air pollution and simultaneously create beneficial health risk reductions. Vehicles represent a major source of particulate matter besides carbon dioxide and other tailpipe pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides.

Through the computation of real-time IoT sensor data obtained from various sources such as ground-based sensor units and commercial satellites, user-friendly air quality heat maps and executive dashboards can determine the most severe pollution hotspots to take proactive steps towards further decarbonising the economy.

To stay ahead in the smart city race in an era of AI-enabled smart urban solutions, civil engineers, planners, regulators and green startups keen to fight against air pollution should possess basic AI know-how and know-why, over and above their expertise and experience in developing land use plans, revitalising urban precincts, making infrastructure services more accessible to disadvantaged segments of the population or creating a scalable business model.

Smart city development programmes will have to be quickly rebooted with an AI advantage to leverage new digital technologies, big-data analytics, and cloud computing for cleaner air and better public health. AI-powered computer vision analytics with facial detection systems, in combination with environmental sensors mounted on smart lamp posts, could enable authorities to identify in real time where exactly air pollution occurs, who is causing it, and where remedial and preventive action is required. Current technological advances in AI-enabled smart city systems suggest that intelligent air quality management systems may soon become fully autonomous in deciding.

The possibilities of smart, AI-enabled “emissions abatements” are endless. India should seek the first-mover advantage through large-scale deployment. The demand for clean, green, and liveable cities is growing in tandem with the deep concern over climate change and how it intimately affects the health of people and the living environment. India can and should exploit this window of opportunity to be policy- and thought-leader in emissions abatement while spawning technological innovations to power the environmental drive.

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