Animal planet: HP helps turn Earth into a science project

By Brian McDonough, Discover Performance managing editor


One of the first events at HP Discover Barcelona was a press conference announcing Earth Insights, a massive Big Data collaboration between HP and Conservation International. The environmental organization is using HP technology—notably the HAVEn Big Data platform—to study the health of the planet at a breadth and scale that's stunning.


HP Software SVP George Kadifa introduced a panel that included scientists from CI and leaders from HP Vertica and HP Enterprise Services to explain how the project works, and what it's telling us about the world we live in.  


"This is a game changer," said Jorge Ahumada, executive director of Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) Network, who calls the project an early warning system for the planet. "HP technology is helping us produce much faster, more accurate results and understand the implications of biodiversity loss on our planet's future and take action right away."


It starts with the Wildlife Picture Index, in which motion-sensitive camera traps are planted (no pun intended) in tropical forests in 16 countries. They capture images of animals walking past, day or night, while sensors also capture temperature, humidity and other data, along with the location and time.  


"Technology and information have transformed every imaginable sector of human endeavor—except when comes to tracking the health of the planet and humanity's environmental security," said Sandy Andelman, CI's chief scientist. "There the right data at the right scales has absolutely been lacking."


Not only is the technology producing unprecedented volumes of data, but it's helping scientists get information they might never have obtained otherwise.


panel.jpg"In Congo, a very remote place, scientists have studied the tropical forests for 30 years and never seen some of the animals [recorded] in a matter of a couple of years," Ahumada noted.  


And all that new data now means something, because Vertica lets them run analytics in hours or minutes instead of weeks or months. Scientists very quickly get a real picture of what's going on right now, with enough depth to understand the context, and thus make smart decisions about how to mitigate a problem while there's still time.


"Vertica's analytics offering ingests massive volumes of data ... to serve insights with amazing speed and unprecedented accuracy," said Colin Mahony, VP & GM of HP Vertica. "New insights can be acted upon in real time to change future outcomes.  ...  That can also be business outcomes, personal health outcomes," and so forth.


The vision of the project, Andelman said, is "to cover the planet with data and be able to understand that data to create diverse networks of scientists, technologists and policy-makers collaborating across institutions and national boundaries to really understand what's happening to the planet, what it means for people and how we're going to ensure that our children inherit a planet we'd want them to live in."


Alongside the press conference, a display of monitors visualized the data the projects have gathered. Between the compelling visualizations and some amazing images captured with the camera traps, it made for a great example of how Big Data, harnessed by the power of the HAVEn platform, can really make a difference in the world.


For more on the Earth Insights project, check out “Harnessing Big Data to Drive Environmental Progress.”

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