Why we need to embrace hyperscale-data to take hyper-scale climate action

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This Friday – 15th March – will see the culmination of efforts to unite pockets of protest which have taken place in regions across the world, with schoolchildren taking to the streets in a global strike calling for urgent action on climate change.

Politicians in the UK have also been getting behind climate action. As part of this week’s Spring Statement, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced £79 million of funding for a new supercomputer in Edinburgh, which is designed to be used (in part) to contribute to discoveries in climate science. Also in the budget was a focus on the de-carbonisation of gas supplies and increase in the use of green gas in order to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

Air pollution: the world’s problem

It’s encouraging to hear proposals from policymakers, particularly those such as the UK’s IT funding, which place technology at their heart. Yet what we now need to see is action and measurable outcomes. We can’t afford for this to take years; instead work must commence now to tackle very real and very present environmental issues. Take the news this week which revealed that almost 800,000 people in Europe die prematurely every year as a result of air pollution – twice what was estimated previously.

This problem is far from limited to Europe, though. This week also saw the UN release a 700-page report on the state of the planet’s environment and the devastating impacts of air pollution. Currently the cause of 6 to 7 million premature deaths per year, this problem will persist if an equally impactful approach is not taken to understanding and analysing root causes, and putting effective strategies in place which action change.

Quick-fix policies and tighter regulation on polluting industries are small steps forward, but what’s needed now are long-term approaches which harness technology and leverage the wealth of data we have at our finger tips.

Fortunately, there’s already a lot of valuable data that has been gathered by local governments, industries and private companies. Similarly, new technologies (sensors, IoT devices, wearables) are already generating information at street-level detail on a continuous basis. However, collecting, visualising and analysing this data at such massive scale is beyond the realm of human capability – and that of many machines. As a result, it has sat in huge – and often siloed – data sets, frequently unused, and almost always under-utilised.

Visualising the future

That’s where hyper-scale data analytics comes in. Our platform can be used to gather data on things like traffic information, industry and vehicle emissions, sanitation levels, geological, atmospheric and oceanographic records, temperature, geolocation insights on people, animals and things. It can be used to visualise and analyse these data sets, joining the dots and performing root cause analysis at local levels, to action changes in smart city development, and positively influence the bigger picture.

Take our home city of Cambridge, where 43% of work journeys (and no doubt a good deal of non-commutes) are entirely done by bike, the highest proportion in Britain. This is great in fair weather, not so much in typical British weather, when many cyclist swap two wheels for four, or opt for the bus. Through our recent work with the Smart Cambridge, the city has been examining the effects of this in terms of traffic congestion and subsequent air pollution, and investigating viable, sustainable methods of optimising the city to ease traffic and people flow, improve public transport systems, better provision healthcare services, intelligently plan residential zones and the location of processing plants and – crucially – reduce environmental damage.

We’ll be following updates on the commendable strike action of Cambridge’s schoolchildren – and those across the world – on Friday. And, while positive proposals have been made in recent weeks, we’ll be following even more keenly updates and developments in the action of governments and policymakers.

To find out more about how the GeoSpock platform can provide insight with your data, please contact us and a member of our team will get in touch.