Originally posted on the Software Enabled Earth blog
By Robert Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist, Microsoft
Microsoft is in Durban, South Africa, this week for the 17th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, otherwise known as COP17. This year, Microsoft is teaming up with a number of organizations to demonstrate how data visualization tools can help transform our understanding of the world. I have little doubt that we can transform how people make decisions about issues surrounding our environment by providing people, organizations and policy makers with interactive maps and tools which help them better understand how society is using its limited resources.
I am quite excited by a number of the great partnerships we have been working on, which will hopefully contribute to a transition toward a more powerful discussion on environmental issues. Some of the projects we have been involved with include:
- Working with the European Environment Agency (EEA) and Esri to launch the Eye on Earth network; an online community and application development platform for the creation of global environmental maps. The network provides a collaborative environment for hosting, sharing and discovering environmental data.
- Unveiling NoiseWatch, a new EEA service that aggregates data on noise levels and promotes the principles of public data access and citizen science.
- Teaming up with Natural Balance to collect data and generate reports on carbon saved with its revolutionary device, Wonderbag, a unique heat retention device. Wonderbag contributes to reducing CO2 emissions and toxic fumes associated with fuel fires by creating a method for cooking safely indoors.
- Underscoring Microsoft’s commitment to bringing sustainable design and technology to Africa. A recent example is the Microsoft-designed IT pre-assembled components (ITPAC) data center at the UN Environment Programme headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya.
- Working with South Africa-based SustainableIT, on a Microsoft Azure-based carbon accounting and reporting solution, the carbon report, that helps organizations measure, understand and report their organizations carbon inventory and emissions
The Eye on Earth network is built on the Windows Azure platform and uses Esri’s ArcGIS Online cloud services, providing users with a secure central location for managing geospatial environmental data and the easy creation and sharing of map-based services. The ease of use strikes me as the core issue which will help anyone translate complex data into accessible, interactive solutions that can be shared through the Eye on Earth network.
NoiseWatch is an EEA service available on the Eye on Earth network, and will measure environmental noise, which like air and water pollution has a significant impact on public health. According to the World Health Organization, 20 percent of Europeans are “regularly exposed to noise levels at night that could significantly damage health.” While many of us take for granted the presence of noise in our lives, NoiseWatch empowers the public to understand and monitor noise levels and start to make the link between noise pollution and health impacts. The most advanced of the three Watches in the series, NoiseWatch supports enhanced citizen engagement through a mobile application, available on Windows Phone 7.5, iOS and Android, that can measure location-based noise levels and relay this information back to the NoiseWatch application.
Also at COP17, Microsoft is working with South Africa-based partner Natural Balance, the creator of the Wonderbag, as part of our commitment to supporting sustainable technologies that help people and the environment. Wonderbag is a thermally insulated bag used for cooking. When a cook transfers a pot heated on a stove into the Wonderbag, the food in the pot continues to cook, conserving fuel and reducing the environmental hazards resulting from cooking fires. Microsoft is excited to support Wonderbag because it impacts people locally with better cooking technology and globally by making use of carbon trading. By trading Wonderbag carbon savings on the European Carbon Exchange, the company earns the revenue it needs to sell bags at affordable prices. Microsoft and software development specialist “frog” are leveraging Windows Azure to enable Natural Balance to more effectively monitor and promote the use of the bag.
Combined, these advancements underscore two of our commitments to sustainability. The first is to collaborate with public and private organizations and combine our areas of expertise to solve environmental issues. And, secondly, we are committed to utilizing technology to develop and provide tools and solutions that allow businesses, organizations, policy-makers and citizens alike to understand their environmental impact and make more educated decisions around sustainability.
At Microsoft, it is our belief that these actions are crucial to improving the environment. We will continue creating enhanced technologies and solutions that enable organizations to improve sustainability.