The Internet of Things (IoT) creates incredible business value—and some very cool consumer experiences—but it’s not often thought of as a boon for the environment. This week, the Microsoft Research Connections blog is highlighting a couple of interesting solutions which put IoT technologies to work to address serious environmental problems.
In Texas, civil engineers and emergency personnel are using Microsoft Azure to analyze historical flood data so they can begin predicting floods on a more local level. Together, they connected the National Flood Forecasting System with local emergency response to alert first responders of impending threats.
“The need was obvious: flooding claims more lives and costs more federal government money than any other category of natural disasters,” writes Dan Fay, director of Earth, Energy and Environment for Microsoft Research. “A system that can predict local floods could help flood-prone communities prepare for and maybe even prevent catastrophic events like the Onion Creek deluge.”
Researchers in Brazil are monitoring for threats of a much more subtle nature. Using a network of roughly 700 remote sensors, they’re studying the ecological health of the region’s cloud forests. These forests are one of Brazil’s largest and researchers are focused on protecting this treasured ecosystem, while also managing access to water and other critical resources more effectively. Each of the sensors sends out data on moisture, temperature and other readings that help scientists understand variations in the microclimate, but environmental conditions can often skew their findings. With Azure, scientists can analyze the data and determine which devices might be malfunctioning, helping them to get a more accurate picture of conditions on the ground.
Rob Fatland, senior research program manager for Microsoft Research, describes the program on the Connections blog: “Think of it as cloud to cloud: cloud forest data being managed and analyzed through the power of cloud computing,” Fatland writes. “Essentially, it’s a parallel process with some researchers developing the sensors, power supplies, and data flow in the cloud forest; others working with computers to set up receptacles for those massive incoming data flows; and everyone striving to reach a level of confidence that new insights can be discovered and explored through the data.”
Visit the Microsoft Research Connections blog to watch the videos and learn more about how researchers in Texas and in Brazil are using the power of IoT to monitor environmental conditions in real time, and use that knowledge to prepare for what’s to come.