The last century has experienced a very intense urbanization transition. It is foreseen that in 2050, 68% of the population will live in the cities. The growing of urban populations is manly driven by social and economic opportunities and the extended availability of services such as health, education, or public transportation . Understanding the key trends in urbanization is crucial to understand the challenges in meeting the needs of their growing urban populations.
Personal, behavioural, social, economic, and environmental determinants, along with genetic factors, affect health and wellbeing of urban communities and influence the risk of onset of most chronic diseases. In particular, respiratory diseases (such as asthma) and metabolic diseases (like Type 2 Diabetes, T2D) are among the highest causes for death and disability in urban population. A constant exposition to air pollutants can cause chronic respiratory diseases and/or exacerbate pre-existing ones. T2D is related to obesity, sleep deprivation, unhealthy lifestyle, lack of physical activity and several other factors such as stress.
The good news is that much of the mortality and morbidity and societal costs associated to such diseases are preventable.
To make prevention effective we need to:
- Develop innovative solution to empower the citizens
- Build a health centric approach for urban planning.


Smart city technologies across the world allow to harvest large amount of data from diverse sources. Those data can be used to design more effective interventions to promote health and wellbeing through better prediction of health and disease outcomes and the management of outbreaks.
However, due to the variety of health determinants, the policy response must be intersectoral as well. Such concept is the basis of the “Health in All Policies” approach that systematically takes into account the health implications of decisions, seeks synergies, and increase accountability.

PULSE has the purpose to build extensible models and technologies to predict, mitigate and manage public health problems, and promote population health in cities through more holistic decision-making.
Target group

People living in cities. PULSE focuses in particular on the risk to develop respiratory disease and the development od strategies to foster healthy living in cities. The two main problems addressed are: risk and asthma. In terms of health determinants, it focuses on the relation between air pollution and asthma, and between physical inactivity and T2D.

Impact for citizen

The project expects to:

  • Transform public health from a reactive to a predictive system using Big Data and IT tools and technologies.
  • Shift public health from a surveillance-based system to an inclusive and collaborative system via citizen engagement/citizen science.
  • Minimize environmental and behavioral risk of chronic disease incidence and prevalence via an integrated system of sensors, app and data analytics.

Impact for staff

Economic impact

Cost of product

The project is still ongoing as well as the design of its exploitation plan and potential business model/s.

Life expectancy of product

Other costs of acquisition and setup

Expected annual cost

Special requirements

Is the product for personal use or can it be used by (how) many people?

PULSE solution is a set of services, models and tools, which can be used by different target groups; i.e. the individual citizen, the researcher, the policy maker, the public health intervention designer, etc.

In detail:

  1. PULSE engages in a collaborative dialogue with a range of stakeholders across seven global cities: Paris, Barcelona, Birmingham, New York City, Singapore, Pavia (Italy) and Keelung (Taiwan).
  2. PULSE has developed the PULSAIR app which is used by citizens in the 7 cities to:
    1. Collect (i) the health and socioeconomic status of the user and lifestyle habits; (ii) Information about the neighbourhood of the user according to pollution metrics and quality-of-life related factors (e.g. concentration of PM10, presence of green areas, number of stores that promote healthy habits); (iii) the mobility patterns of the user, to be able to assess the physical activity and the mobility of the users across different areas of the city.
    2. Receive: (i) Estimations of the health risk of the users: periodically the app shows the user the risk to develop asthma or Type 2 Diabetes; (ii) air pollution in the city: the app can render the pollution maps and estimate the exposure of each user; (iii) Practical information to improve knowledge about pollution and suggestions on how to contribute to emission reduction by taking more sustainable choice in mobility and household habits.
  3. PULSE is geo-referencing and analyzing a large wealth of information including maps of the pilot cities, orthophotos, satellite optical, multispectral, and hyperspectral images, public health and environmental quality maps, data acquired by air quality sensors, as well as data gathered via the app (see point 1 and the figure).
  4. The data is collected and used to build health risk models:
  • PULSE implements a novel surveillance system on air quality and models risk of exposure to polluted air, especially for those citizens with asthma;
  • PULSE has developed and modeled new insights on the relationship between risk for the onset of T2D and environmental and behavioural factors;
  • PULSE defined a model to assess wellbeing at individual and at city level.

All the data is integrated in the PULSE Dashboard which contains information useful either to public health organizations, that provides access to big Data analytics, Geo spatial analytics, Health interventions and Simulation tools. Thanks to the WebGIS technology it is possible to visualize geographic trends and features of several phenomenon, knowing which areas possess the most critical situations.
Is the project intended for training purposes? The Public Health Observatory will offer training materials and courses for public health officials and policy makers about Big Data for Public Health and Health in All Policies.

How much time is needed for the user or staff to get to know how to use of the product?

Has the project been presented before at other exhibitions or venues?

The project and its intermediate results have been presented at several international conferences and events.

Experiences from practice

Cases stories