IBM Big Data and Analytics Software Gives University of Alberta Researchers a Real-Time View of Carbon's Impact on the Environment

IBM and researchers collaborate to accelerate analysis and prediction of climate changes from months to minutes

TORONTO, ON and EDMONTON, AB - 20 Nov 2014: IBM (NYSE: IBM) and the University of Alberta announced today they are using advanced streaming analytics software  to provide researchers with information to enable them to detect, visualize and predict subtle changes in the health of the environment in real-time.  

A group of Canadian and international researchers and graduate students supporting the University’s Enviro-Net project to monitor climate change are now using IBM’s InfoSphere Streams software to quickly ingest, correlate and analyze  data as it arrives from more than 500 sensors implanted in some of the world’s most remote – and vulnerable – ecosystems.

The University of Alberta collaborated with researchers from IBM’s T.J. Watson Laboratory to integrate the software into their research to reduce from months to minutes the time required to analyze data.  The technology provides researchers -- and eventually policy makers – with an unprecedented ability to predict environmental events, such as forest fires and drought, and to apply insights to more accurately forecast how boreal and tropical forests are returning after deforestation and disturbances.

The software provides real-time analysis for more than 10,000 data points per second from sensors measuring carbon levels and other environmental indicators such as relative humidity, temperature, soil moisture, atmospheric pressure and ambient noise from forests in Canada, Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica and Mexico.

Dr. Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa, from the University’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, is the project leader. He will be demonstrating the speed of the analytics platform at the United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change Conference of the Parties in Lima, Peru in late November, 2014.

The depth of insights now being produced has not previously been available in real time.  “When I started this project four years ago I had no idea how much data I would be generating, and we could not look at our data in a reasonable amount of time. It was taking something like six months to two years before we had usable insights,” says Dr Sanchez-Azofeifa. “Now, we can basically ‘see’ the forests breathing in real time."

Dr. Sanchez-Azofeifa, along with students at the University of Alberta, will work with IBM to develop a simplified ‘dashboard’ view of the data to make it easier to share and convey insights to decision-makers.

“Right now, there is an enormous amount of critical data produced by environmental monitors,” said Bernie Kollman, IBM’s vice-president, Public Sector Alberta. “The ability to quickly analyze that data and make informed decisions will have implications for us here in Alberta as researchers study the impact of oil sands extraction efforts. It will also help other policy makers around the world support environmental stewardship.”

IBM awarded Dr. Sanchez-Azofeifa usage of the software through IBM’s Alberta Centre for Advanced Studies (CAS). IBM Alberta CAS was formed with the Government of Alberta and Alberta Universities to enable strategic, multidisciplinary collaborations of mutual interest and benefit between the province’s research community and IBM's worldwide research and development staff, with an emphasis on projects analyzing “big data” or the quintillion bytes of data generated daily by a variety of sources.
IBM has made it a mandate to work with academia and government to advance Canada’s ability to innovate, address a critical, big data skills gap and drive analytics research.

A Smarter Planet Blog: University of Alberta Dean of Science Jonathan Schaeffer talks big data and remote sensoring

About IBM
For more information about IBM Big Data and Analytics, visit http://ibm.com/bigdataanalytics and http://www.ibmbigdatahub.com/.

Follow IBM Big Data & Analytics on Twitter @IBMbigdata and @IBMAnalytics.

About University of Alberta, Faculty of Science:
The Faculty of Science at the University of Alberta is driving scientific excellence and the development and application of new technologies.  This rich environment puts students on the front lines to help answer the big questions - including those that ask for solutions to understand and manage changes in the environment.

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