Data for Action – Making the Invisible, Visible: EMISSIONS & AIR QUALITY Smart Class 2024 Retrospective


See Related event

Founded in Neath in 2017 with a Smart City vision, Vortex build environmental sensor networks and data solutions to support decarbonisation initiatives. Part of Marston Holdings since early 2022, they currently operate the largest air quality monitoring network in Europe.

At EMISSIONS & AIR QUALITY Smart Class 2024, we were delighted to welcome back Nick Ruxton-Boyle (the Director of Environment at Marston Holdings and Vortex) to delve into the urgent challenge of air pollution and examine the current landscape of policies to tackle this critical issue.

Nick highlighted the power of harnessing localised air pollution data with innovative highway projects designed to enhance both air quality and road safety. By illuminating the unseen hazards to our health and environment, his presentation revealed actionable opportunities for change fuelled by proven data-driven success stories.

Following the innovator presentations and keynotes, Vortex’s AI and Data Scientist James Toop accompanied Nick for deeper dive roundtable discussions with all delegates in attendance.

Presentation highlights:

  • The Pollution Challenge – Know where to act:
  • Public Health Wales estimates between 1,000-1,600 deaths due to long-term air pollution exposure each year; 93% of homes in Wales breach WHO limits for toxic pollutants;
  • NO2 – Industrial processes are a significant contributor to NO2 emissions; Though there is clear evidence of health effects from exposure to NO2, there are difficulties in distinguishing these effects from simultaneous exposure to other pollutants including PM; NOx is a is a precursor for ground level ozone and can damage crops; Road transport is now the largest single UK source of NOx, accounting for almost one third of UK emissions; High concentrations of NO2 are often found at the roadside; NO2 can also increase susceptibility to respiratory infections and to allergens; In particular, diesel vehicles contribute significantly to NOx emissions; Short-term exposure to NO2 can cause inflammation of the airways;
  • PM – Emissions react in the air and become secondary PM; Industrial processes such as industrial combustion contribute to PM; Domestic solid fuel is the largest contributor to PM2.5 in Wales; PM can come from natural sources such as wind-blown dust, sea salt, pollens and soil particles; Exhaust emissions and tyre and brake wear contribute to levels of PM; PM can cause respiratory and cardiovascular illness; A threshold has not been identified for which adverse health effects are unlikely to occur;
  • Shared Vision and Goals – The Clean Air Plan for Wales:
  • The Clean Air Plan for Wales is a comprehensive strategy to improve air quality and reduce the negative impacts of air pollution on human health, biodiversity, and the natural environment;
  • This plan sets out a 10-year pathway to achieving cleaner air and is structured around four core themes: People, Environmental, Prosperity and Place;
  • The plan outlines a range of actions and measures to be implemented across various sectors, including transport, agriculture, industry, and domestic heating;
  • Key commitments include – The development of Clean Air Zones; The development of a new air quality monitoring and assessment framework; The promotion of active travel and sustainable transport; The implementation of measures to reduce emissions from agriculture and industry; The plan also emphasises the importance of raising public awareness and engagement on air quality issues and the need for cross-sector collaboration to achieve its goals;

  • Schools and Hospitals in Wales:
  • Wales has many sites sensitive to air quality where the benefits of the Clean Air Plan for Wales will be most felt. These sites include 84 hospitals and 1536 schools;
  • A national air quality monitoring network can be deployed to include all key sites including schools, hospitals and industrial facilities;
  • Neath Port Talbot Council Case Study:
  • Determined to improve air quality to protect residents’ health and become the first Welsh Local Authority to obtain street-level air pollution data; Surrounded by heavy industrial activity, a busy M4 motorway, the main railway line to London, shipping and large residential areas; Needed to understand the effect of different air pollution sources to inform targeted interventions;
  • Traditional air quality monitoring methods were inadequate, providing too little granularity in data; Vortex provided 70 VTX Air monitors to identify air pollution spikes and validate the success of current policies (e.g. 50mph limit on M4);
  • Cardiff City Council Recent Deployment:
  • Cardiff faced major NO2 issues and Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA) were declared; There was a lack of local air pollution data to monitor sites and vulnerable locations (Schools);
  • Vortex provided 47 location-specific air quality monitors across nearly every primary school and four AQMA’s; Cardiff can now precisely analyse air pollution concentration at street level throughout the day, month and year; Cardiff can now make targeted evidence-based decisions on future policymaking and School Street projects;
  • VTX Air Localised Air Quality Monitoring to Measure, Analyse and Act:
  • Continuous monitoring and data collection – PM2.5/PM10/NO2/O3; Maintenance free advantages – Self-healing mesh networking and remote calibrations and updates; 360-degree visibility – Identifying hidden pollution hotspots with precise real-time data; Evidence-based decisions – Using baseline data to validate interventions and investments;
  • ULEZ Monitoring – Vehicle and noise detection to support Low Emission Zones;
  • Geofencing – Monitoring hyperlocal air quality levels to improve health outcomes;

  • Implementing School Streets Zones:
  • Modular School Streets approach – Safe routes in community grants; Air quality baseline and pollution evidence; School street design, engagement and delivery; Air quality monitoring and ANPR enforcement; Behaviour change and evaluation;
  • Waltham Forest School Street Scheme Case Study:
  • LBWF wanted to monitor the effectiveness of their ANPR enforced School Street programme, drive behaviour change and convince residents of their health and road safety benefits;
  • Vortex provided 12 maintenance-free VTX Air monitors with real-time street-level accuracy data, across three schools; This has resulted in notable NO2 reductions on School Streets roads during term time/weekdays; Non-school street devices consistently exhibit higher levels than school street devices; Exposure to NO2 levels below WHO guidelines 10x more often than non-school streets;
  • Co-benefits of improving air quality around schools – Supports climate change mitigation actions; Improves children’s ability to learn and protects their physical/mental health & wellbeing; Reduces strain on healthcare systems; Increases sense of community and provides spaces for children to play; Reduces vehicle usage, lowers emissions and improves air quality; Creates safer streets & reduces traffic casualties

If you satisfy our regular delegate qualification criteria but were unable to join us in London on May 1st for the live in-person event at Greencoat Place Conference Centre, CLICK HERE and complete the short “Download form” (located at the bottom of the post) to receive a unique link enabling free access to the presentation video recordings and slides (including the film footage and slides from Nick’s initial presentation).

Those qualifying to receive the rich presentation content from this event include commissioning, procurement, trialling, partnering and policy leads, senior influencers, strategic decision makers, environmental managers and planners from local authorities (e.g. city, borough, metropolitan, district and county councils); public and private transport operators/service providers; sub-regional transport bodies, combined authorities, integrated transport authorities and passenger transport executives; freight and logistics operators; airports and port operators; vehicle manufacturers; energy providers; potential partners from industry (e.g. retail, construction, manufacturing and waste management sectors) and healthcare; DfT, Defra, EA, BEIS, DHSC, UKHSA and other supporting national agencies; prime contractors; academia etc.

Sign up to Smart Classes Digest to receive the latest thought leadership, innovation insights and event updates straight into your inbox. You can also follow us on LinkedIn or follow us on Twitter.

#Emissions&AirQuality  #SmartCities 


EMISSIONS & AIR QUALITY Smart Classes show key buyer side stakeholders how they can deploy the latest digital technology-enabled solutions, data-driven strategies, policies and best practices to improve urban air quality and drive down emissions and air pollution in our cities and regions. EMISSIONS & AIR QUALITY Smart Class 2024 will be hosted in London on May 1st.


   London, UK

Sponsored by
Marston Holdings
Vortex IoT

Stay in touch

Sign up to Smart Classes Digest to receive the latest thought leadership, innovation insights and event updates straight into your inbox.

We offer great opportunities for our sponsors, and would love to hear from potential speakers, contributors or new partners.