Green Consortium Wins ‘Open Platform’ Funding


A consortium that includes IBM and academics is developing a platform to exchange climate change data

A consortium has received funding for an online environmental data marketplace that will study the risks associated with climate change.

The consortium is being led by the Met Office, but also includes IBM, Imperial College Business School and Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London.

The group has been awarded “multi-million pound match funding” by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), a government agency. The money will be used to finance a 15 month programme to prove the concept of what the group is calling the “Open Platform.”

Open Data Exchange

Essentially, the Open Platform seeks to create an online marketplace to exchange knowledge, data and modelling techniques between the government, and other sectors such as the insurance industry and those involved in disaster risk reduction.

The idea is that the so called Open Platform will enable “innovative solutions for managing risk and adapting to environmental change and extremes.”

“The Open Platform will initially address the needs of the aid, disaster reduction and insurance communities, and their requirement to understand past, present and future environmental impacts in their management of risk,” said Sam Nixson, Project Director of the Open Platform.

Nixson told eWEEK Europe UK that the project had started officially on 1 July, after it received £2.6m in funding the TSB. Another £2.6m has been invested by the Met Office and IBM, bringing the total funding to £5.2m.

“We pitched to TSB about collaboration across digital environments, with an open access data platform. We have teamed up with partners such as IBM, Imperial College, and Grantham Institute, and the TSB really liked the idea of creating a platform that acts as aggregator of data to create value in market place.”

“We have an ambitious vision, to create a technology-enabled business platform and we must prove that this platform can operate sustainably, by providing a real world business case for the platform,” Nixson said. “Around the world there are a wide variety of platforms containing data about the environment but they are unsustainable so this platform will gain critical mass when it proves it can provide a place where different industries and companies can share knowledge.”

“Effectively what we are doing is providing an eBay trading space for data, that can be used by both the public as well as governments and commercial institutions,” said Nixson. “We are looking to be the data aggregator for the world.”

“First we are concentrating on the insurance market and the reinsurance sector, as they really understand this concept,” said Nixson. “But this can be much broader, and therefore we have two launch markets – the insurance sector and the disaster risk reduction sector.”

“Having the Government invest in this is really great, as it is a big vote of confidence, and makes people pay attention,” said Nixson. He said the group has already presented the concept to Lloyds of London, as well as major insurers, and all are interested in the concept. Nixson is this weekend also flying out to Washington DC for a World Bank Workshop to demonstrate the concept.

“We are sharing this with the US Met Service and it is truly an international vision that is already getting traction,” said Nixson. “It really helps as it is not competing with other initiatives but is instead trying to help them by offering them interoperability that is technology agnostic.”

Open As Possible

Does that include the use of open source software?

“Yes the Open Platform will be as open as possible. We are currently looking at various open systems at the moment, and assessing which is best for purpose,” said Nixson. “We are in the initial assessment phase at the moment.”

“The Open Platform will gather data from around the world and it will be ranked by providence, importance, geography etc,” said Nixson. “It will offer compute on demand in order to run algorithms and models against that data. It is a grand old vision.”

“The Met Office has history of working with complex models and data, and this will be about importing petabytes of information, and getting it into a format that is suitable for all people,” he said.

“The platform contains environmental data in the broadest sense, looking at climate change, so that for example in a given geography, if you build something in a particular way, you will want to know it will be allright for at least 40 to 50 years,” said Nixson.

Great Response

“We are quite excited to see where this can go, as we have access to IBM’s resources and skills, as well as some top people at Imperial College and Grantham Institute, which means this becomes really exciting,” said Nixson. “The speed with which this has been greeted has been fantastic, and it is not threatening, as we are asking people to keep on doing what they are doing, generating data, but maybe in future consider aligning with our standards.”

“It is all about sharing good quality information with decision makers,” said Nixson.

There is currently no website for the project, but it is coming soon.

Interested parties at advised to contact Sam Nixson at the Met Office.

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