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Innovation is core to the Department of State’s sustainability strategy.  The Executive Secretariat works to harness creative ideas from employees and the private sector and scale them into enterprise solutions.  One of the largest initiatives is for big data.  EGS developed and deployed an Internet of Things (IoT) network to provide a strategic technological platform to capture and consolidate sustainability data for the Department of State.

Key programs include a global smart metering network for utilities, the air quality monitoring program, and a new program for vehicles, called telematics.

The infrastructure ensures secure data transfer and a platform that enables machine learning and artificial intelligence to identify performance improvements for operational efficiency, consumption, and behavior.

Air Quality Monitoring

Air pollution is a grave threat to human health, economies, and the environment.  With 75,000 employees around the world, the Department of State has a vested interest in ensuring personnel and their families have the data they need to make informed decisions to protect their health.

Using modelled data, an estimated 84 percent of U.S. embassies and consulates are in areas that exceed U.S. annual air quality standards for fine particulate matter.  Yet, at many locations, reliable and real-time air quality data is unavailable.

In 2008, U.S. Embassy Beijing installed a reference grade air quality monitor on its roof and began publishing the data in real-time using U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards and methodologies.

By 2015, all U.S. diplomatic missions in China and India had air quality monitors.  To ensure economies of scale, the ability to integrate scientific and technological advances, and policy compliance, the Office of Management Strategy and Solutions (M/SS) developed the Department’s central air quality monitoring program (DOSAir), in partnership with the EPA.

As of November 2022, more than 70 U.S. embassies and consulates host reference grade air quality monitors. The real-time data supports the Department’s enterprise risk management, resiliency planning, and preparedness.

All current and historical data collected through the program are available to the public through the EPA’s website  .  AirNow has published real-time domestic air quality data for over 20 years, providing U.S. personnel and citizens overseas with a familiar data and health messaging interface.

In 2020, the Department released the ZephAir mobile application on iOS  and Android.   ZephAir, inspired by the Greek word “zephyros” for “the west wind,” brings air quality data to your fingertips by displaying U.S. Environmental Protection Agency air quality index information and health messaging for more than 70 overseas locations, with data from reference-grade monitors at U.S. embassies and consulates and other government partnersThe app features the ability to set preferred locations, receive push notifications when the air quality index changes, and view 24-hour and weekly data. The app was developed to meet requests from the field for easier access to science-based, standardized, reliable, and transparent air quality data and corresponding health recommendations. The Greening Diplomacy Initiative (GDI) in the Office of Management Strategy and Solutions (M/SS) led app development, with input from the Air Pollution Working Group and support from the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs (SCA).

The program also provides a platform for showcasing U.S. environmental policy, technology, research, and data solutions.  The air quality monitors are made in the United States to EPA specifications as delineated by the Clean Air Act.  U.S. researchers and companies use DOSAir data to help fine-tune apps and devices.  Overseas, local citizens have used AirNow’s RSS feed feature to make apps that further raise awareness about air pollution.  Participating U.S. diplomatic posts often host capacity building workshops, hackathons, and other events to raise awareness about air pollution and share best practices in monitoring and mitigation technology in order to advance American interests.

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In a way, embassies are their own little city – they have to manage water, waste, energy, and mobility every day.  EGS works to make the Department version of “smart cities” a reality.   EGS collaborated with Department stakeholders to develop an enterprise smart metering program called MeterNet.  The program automatically and securely captures real-time energy data from Department facilities – and soon, it will collect water and fuel consumption data as well.  Analyzing the data allows the Department to identify efficiency opportunities on a scale that was previously impossible.

The program has already identified no-cost energy efficiency improvements worth millions of dollars in its pilot tranche of 30 U.S. diplomatic posts.  The next step is overlaying machine learning and artificial intelligence onto the data to automatically identify savings and efficiencies, predict blackouts, and optimize maintenance and replacement schedules for equipment.  These endeavors help reduce the Department’s environmental footprint, increasing operational resiliency, and improve performance.

U.S. Department of State

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