Big data has been a hot topic in recent years, and the importance of collecting data has certainly come to be understood by most corporations. While data has applications for almost every industry, one area where you may not have considered its uses is in conservation. Yet, conservationists have been collecting all types of data relating to the environment for many years now. Big data allows an even greater degree of data collection than was previously possible and it can be done so extremely efficiently, allowing faster analysis and implementation.
Big data has plenty of applications in this field, including helping with the monitoring of plants, forests and the animals within them; managing endangered species and extinction; monitoring poaching activity on a large scale; and monitoring water usage across large cities. The ability to obtain more relevant data due to targeting efficiencies, structure data that was previously not structured, and then use insights to take more immediate action, is having a profound effect on conservation efforts. As a result, there are a number of collaborative projects that are using big data to help the planet.
Conserve.io is a data collection, resource protection and outreach platform, which allows conservationists to alert the general public about specific efforts and to crowdsource required information for monitoring purposes. It’s a cloud-based system that allows for online and offline data gathering, and it allows anyone to create their own database in a short amount of time. This platform is host to several key projects and has allowed a much larger field of data to be collected, while also increasing awareness.
Conservation International has been monitoring plant species in tropical forests, but were generating millions of photos across all of their sites, which needed to be collected manually. HP partnered with Conservation International to launch Earth Insights, which utilises HP’s own analytics platform to collect, process and analyse the data much faster and more efficiently (over nine times faster than was previously possible). This allowed scientists to develop an early warning system for threatened species.
Intel, Dimension Data and Vodafone are all working together in Africa to monitor endangered rhinos, by tagging them with Galileo board, a credit card sized device, that is robust, solar powered and provides feedback on the rhinos whereabouts and status. This helps local teams to monitor poaching activity and ensure these animals are protected more effectively.
This is a truly crowdsourced projectthat allows citizens to log sightings of bumble bees across which are then verified by scientists. By using technology, conservationists and scientists are able to work together to collect and analyse large amounts of data.
In another crowdsourced project, Corporate Services Corp, the nonprofit associated with IBM, is integrating a cloud-based application with local apps and remote internet infrastructure in Brazil. Designed to help preserve the Amazon, the app allows local Brazilians to collect information to help environmental groups monitor the rainforest.
With so many applications for big data in the conservation space, the possibilities are almost boundless. Increased computing power is allowing exponentially faster processing of data, meaning that real insights and trends can be gleaned easily and action can be taken much faster, potentially giving conservationists the opportunity to act before it’s too late in many cases. In some examples, the collection of data is still relatively manual, but the fact that the resulting activities are becoming increasingly efficient means the lifecycle of conservation efforts is effectively being reduced, and more knowledge is being captured for good.
Large companies are lending their technologies, skills, budgets and resources to these projects and the level of cooperation is inspiring for the future of our natural environment. Collaboration in projects such as these is important not only for the planet, but for showing future generations that new technologies, including those involving big data and analytics, can and should be put to socially responsible uses.