CITIES’ Digital Initiatives

CITIESair – Air Quality Monitoring Network in Abu Dhabi (2021 – ongoing)

Research Supervisor: Dr. Federico Bernardini
Research Assistant: Vince Nguyen

CITIESair’s data visualization screen at the Campus Center at NYUAD

Air pollution is among the 4th leading factors for premature death, claiming over 6.7 million lives worldwide in 2020 [1]. Microscopic particulate matter smaller than 2.5 micrometers (PM2.5) can cause respiratory and cardiovascular diseases [2-3]. Despite high levels of PM2.5 in the UAE [4], there is little awareness of air quality and its health hazards among the public. Additionally, few policies have been implemented to ensure people’s safety.

CITIESair, an evolving network of air quality sensors that measures and publishes PM2.5 data, was established in response to the UAE’s efforts to reduce air pollution’s mortality rate from 64.8 in 2017 to 60.2 per 100,000 people by 2030 – UAE National Air Quality Strategy (2021-2031).

Our Members

CITIESair was first established and tested at NYUAD. It was then strategically expanded to schools across Abu Dhabi to protect the most vulnerable populations. CITIESair will further expand by engaging more communities in Abu Dhabi. As of June 2023, CITIESair operates at:

  • NYUAD: three sensors (one outdoors and two indoors)
  • Cranleigh Abu Dhabi: three sensors (one outdoors and two indoors, with four more indoors to be installed soon)
  • American Community School: two sensors (one outdoors and one indoors)
  • Lycée Français International Théodore Monod: two sensors (one outdoors and indoors)

Starting in Fall 2023, CITIESair will expand to 4 other Aldar schools in the Emirate. Stay tuned.

CITIESair outdoors stations on IQAir map

CITIESair offers to the members of the networks:

  • Well-tested commercial air quality sensors
  • Cutting-edge real-time data visualization and analytic dashboards
  • Guidance to make scientifically-informed decisions and formulate data-driven policies to protect communities from the health effects of air pollution

Impacts of CITIESair

From an obscure topic, air quality has become an important consideration for many school residents when incorporating their daily routines, such as exercising or bringing the kids outdoors. CITIESair has captured the attention of the larger community and inspired Capstone students and researchers at NYUAD to experiment with smart air quality notifications, the result of which will inform the university’s policies on wellness and sustainability.

In line with the citizen scientist movement, CITIESair’s dataset at NYUAD is publicly available to inform communities, enable research with accurate real-time data, and develop new policies. Overall, CITIESair aims to create an omnichannel data repository that is convenient to access, provides persuasive data visualization, and encourages healthier, more sustainable ways of living in Abu Dhabi.


[1] Health Effects Institute. 2020. State of Global Air 2020. Special Report.
Boston, MA:Health Effects Institute.
[2] Li, Donghai, et al. “Fluorescent Reconstitution on Deposition of PM 2.5 in Lung and Extrapulmonary Organs.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol. 116, no. 7, 2019, pp. 2488–93,
[3] Xing, Yu-Fei et al. “The impact of PM2.5 on the human respiratory system.” Journal of thoracic disease vol. 8,1 (2016): E69-74. doi:10.3978/j.issn.2072-1439.2016.01.19
[4] “World’s Most Polluted Countries.” IQAir, 2023,