Cisco and NASA R&D public that cuts across institutional, disciplinary, and national boundaries and create a space for flexible pooling of assets and ideas between stakeholder networks.
Planetary Skin Institute
From One Earth To One World
Alerts on the Planetary Skin
How NASA, Cisco, And A Tricked-Out Planetary Skin Could Make The World A Safer Place
Planetary Skin Institute is a bridge between organizations like the World Economic Forum, NASA, and the University of Minnesota. It takes in massive amounts of data from space-to-mud-to-ocean sensors. And it uses experts and big data analytics to help emerging market governments know things like where to build infrastructure and where droughts will hit.
Its latest project: Developing virtual weather stations using “exhaust” cell phone data. And helping the government of Brazil create a national monitoring and early warning system for natural disasters–a system few countries have, but all need.
One notable example of these risk management and prevention tools: new virtual weather stations currently being tested by Planetary Skin Institute and their partners.
In a breakthrough in environmental sensing and a new way to use junk data, the team uses “exhaust data” from cell phone towers to predict weather conditions by monitoring the speed of radio waves as they travel through humid air. This allows sensing of local environmental conditions anywhere there are cell towers–places that rarely have weather monitoring right now because traditional weather stations are too costly or the locations are too remote. It sounds simple, but it is critically important. Tracking the weather allows data scientists to connect that with all sorts of other information and, most immediately, to predict things like landslides. And to do so for people who live in the areas nearest the towers–typically shantytowns where populations are at greatest risk.
The project in Brazil has been running successfully for two years. If it continues to work, it is a risk management approach and toolkit that Planetary Skin Institute is planning to bring to the rest of the world–the next step in their evolution.
Planetary skin institute ALERTS: automated land change evaluation, reporting and tracking system by J. D. Stanley of the Planetary Skin Institute, Proceeding COM.Geo '11 Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Computing for Geospatial Research & Applications, Article No. 65, Washington, DC, USA — May 23 - 25, 2011.
Planetary Skin: A Global Platform for a New Era of Collaboration, Juan Carlos Castilla-Rubio and Simon Willis, 2009.
Complexity and uncertainty are hallmarks of the early 21st century, as recent developments in the global financial markets demonstrate all too vividly. Responses to the financial crisis have prominently featured demands for global coordination. Our economic woes, however, are dwarfed by the increasing threats of climate change and environmental degradation— and their attendant miseries, such as pandemics and poverty. Unprecedented global coordination and collaboration are the only ways to address these environmental dangers.
Actionable consensus on addressing climate change is now evident in public policy announcements from global leaders, and in the coalescing of private and public opinion that the world needs to address quickly and decisively the varied perils created by man-made climate change. At the World Economic Forum in 2009, public and private sector leaders outlined three basic requirements for mitigating and adapting to changing climate: (1) targets for countries that effectively put a price on carbon; (2) large-scale predictable and sustainable financing for mitigation and adaptation strategies, and, critically (3) the creation of a globally trusted mechanism for measurement, reporting, and verification (MRV).
While measurement is third on the list, it is the essential precondition to any creation of value, or to unlock financial flows. The simple axiom that “you can’t manage what you can’t measure” holds true—especially for the most complex challenges.
NASA-Cisco climate project to flash 'Planetary Skin'
NASA and Cisco Systems Inc. are developing "Planetary Skin" -- a marriage of satellites, land sensors and the Internet -- to capture, analyze and interpret global environmental data. Under terms of an agreement announced during a Capitol Hill climate summit today, NASA and Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO) will develop the online collaborative platform to process data from satellite, airborne and sea- and land-based sensors around the globe.
The goal is to translate the data into information that governments and businesses can use to mitigate and adapt to climate change and manage energy and natural resources more effectively, NASA and Cisco officials explained in interviews.
"There are a lot of data out there, but we have to turn that into information," explained S. Pete Worden, director of NASA's Ames Research Center. "What we are trying to do is use Cisco's expertise in data handling, put our data in there and explain what's really going on in the rainforests."
Indeed, the partners' first project, "Rainforest Skin," will focus on integrating a comprehensive sensor network in rainforests around the world. The project will examine how to capture, analyze and present information about the changes in the level of carbon dioxide -- the main heat-trapping gas -- in the Amazon and other areas. Information will be posted on the project's Web site.
Other projects during the next 18 months will look at changes in land use and water, Worden noted.
"This will begin to give us a sense of, if we pass cap and trade, is it working," he added.
Now about the project's name: "There are many layers of skin, of information, and this will help us understand all of the interconnected data," explained Worden, whose agency provides continuous global observations using satellites and other spacecraft.
Juan Carlos Castilla-Rubio, who directs Cisco's climate change practice, said the information should help companies manage environmental and financial risks in a carbon-constrained world.
"It's providing the support platforms for people to make decisions because today we fly blind," added Castilla-Rubio, whose San Jose, Calif.-based company specializes in Internet Protocol networking.
The Center for Global Development has developed a Web site of its own, called Carma (Carbon Monitoring for Action), which tracks emissions from 50,000 power plants around the world. The Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit research organization is also developing a way to monitor emissions savings from forest conservation.
"These investments in information now are absolutely critical," said Nancy Birdsall, the center's president, who participated in today's summit with Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers. "We have to create that information and track it over time if we're going to have any kind of system at a global level that people in this country and other countries can trust."
"We'll have to have ... something akin to independent monitoring," she added.