Environmental group uses analytics to protect nature

BARCELONA–  It’s interesting to see a company that manufactures products that consumes paper trying to save trees. But that is what Hewlett-Packard Co. is doing in partnership with Conservation International, which tries to preserve endangered species and their ecosystems.

At HP’s Discover conference here the company announced the partnership to help the agency solve a unique big data problem.

Conservation International (CI) has installed 1,000 ruggedized digital camera traps in 16 areas of the world where wildlife is endangered, such as the Republic of the Congo and in the Amazon RiverValley. Made by Reconyx, the sensor-driven cameras are mounted on trees and are triggered when an animal approaches.

Colin Mahony, senior vice president and general for HP’s Vertica analytics platform, said the units are built to conserve battery life because it could be a long time between animal appearances.

Images are manually taken from the camera’s memory and then uploaded onto a server that is shared with scientists.

“The amount of data needs to be seamlessly integrated,” said Mahony. “This is a huge big data challenge and it requires an end-to-end solution with hardware, software and enterprise services to put all the pieces together.”

Conservation International uses Vertica to analyse the data in real time.

(HP also made product announcements. Click here to find out about the ConvergedSystem 700)

“We need a system that can deliver information as quickly as possible so that we do not have to wait until something bad happens,” said Jorge Ahumada, CI’s technical director of tropical ecology assessment and monitoring network.

With Vertica decisions can be made in hours using a dashboard called WildLife Picture Index that was created through a collaboration from HP and CI. Data can be turned over to policy makers much faster than before. HP also created a dashboard that can enable scientist from anywhere in the world to look at the captured data.

“Scientists can now see what is possible through big data and scientist are now sharing data and its changing the culture of the scientific and bio-diversity communities,” he said.

Mahony added that HP’s HAVEn, (Hadoop, Autonomy, Vertica, and Enterprise Security) performs the data analytics for structured and the unstructured data that has been captured by cameras. Scientist in the field have also been equipped with HP Elite Pad tablets to view the data instantly, while HP ProLiant servers process the data on the back end.

“We have optimized this for future possibilities” Mahony said. “There is no greater challenge that complex environmental change and loss. We are bringing together the best technical and services expertise for environmental science and it also gives HP  an opportunity to do what we do best and that is globally customize an end-to-end solution for the new style of IT. This is basically an early warning system for threatened species.”

Ahumada told IT World Canada that the project is a game changer. “We realized for years that we were making decisions based on old data. Now we can do it in real time and prevent environmental disasters.

Approximately 275 species are now being monitored and of those 60 are in significant decline. Ahumada added that 33 of these species are in serious decline, including the sun bear and the wild boar in Malaysia (Pasoh Forest Reserve), the agile mangabey found in the Congo, and the greater grison found in Ecuador (Yasuni).

The population of the Western Gorilla, which lives in the Congo and is considered a critically endangered species, is likely declining—approximately 10 per cent from the 2009 baseline—according to new data.

The following insectivores are likely declining: the moonrat and masked palm civet found in Malaysia (Pasoh Forest Reserve), the banded mongoose, four-toed elephant shrew and checkered elephant shrew found in Tanzania

As for the policy makers, while 193 countries including Canada are members of Bio-Diversity Convention all failed to produce a report on their progress in 2010 to the United Nations because they could not handle the big data, said Dr. Sandy Andelman, vice president of Conservation International.

“Technology and information has transformed every sector of human endeavour expert the tracking of the health of the planet. This is the first time we’ll have the right data, at the right time, at the right scale. And, it’s been lacking. This is the challenge; to bring the right data, at the right time and at the right scale. And, Conservation International and HP is trying to address this.”

The environmental science isn’t just for saving the Amazon RiverValley and other wildlife sanctuaries. According to Andelman, 60 per cent of the birds are declining in big cities such as London.

For example, in about seven years the Turtle Dove is expected to be extinct. The bird mentioned in a song sung around this time of year, The 12 Days of Christmas.

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Niblettohttp://www.computerdealernews.com
Editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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