HP's 'Earth Insights' Is A Great Example Of How Big Data Can Change The World

Elephant at nightHP Earth Insights/YouTubeA photo of an elephant used by Earth Insights

2013 was the year when “big data” became a really huge thing.

Big data refers to collecting vast amounts of data in all shapes and sizes from tweets to images and analysing it to come up with fresh insights.

Time again we heard about big data projects and startups using the tech to help salespeople close deals or help companies target their ads better. Those are worthy use,s but big data is powerful enough to do more than help companies sell stuff.

This is tech that can literally change the world.

That’s why we like HP’s new Earth Insights project announced earlier this month during the company’s customer conference, HP Discover in Barcelona.

Scientists have placed hidden cameras all over the world’s tropical forests that have collected 1.4 million photos so far. Earth Insights collects and analyses those photos and alerts scientists when a species comes under threat.

HP CEO Meg Whitman blogged about the project when it was announced:

“Most recent findings show that, of the 275 species being monitored … 60 of them — or 22 per cent — are either significantly decreasing or likely decreasing compared to baseline levels. … Until now, scientists had to manually collect and analyse this data from tropical forests — often taking weeks, months or more to analyse information — making it difficult to identify new patterns and intervene to protect biodiversity. HP’s solutions are analysing the data 89 per cent faster.”

For the project HP, used its Vertica software (HP bought Veritca for $US350 million in 2011), and outfitted scientists with ElitePad Windows 8 tablets. The system is running on HP’s cloud.

We asked HP to give us a few more details on Earth Insights. A spokesperson told us:

  • HP and Conservation International began Earth Insights in September 2012.
  • It was the brainchild of the HP Sustainability and Social Innovation team.
  • HP has committed more than $US4 million to the project including financial grants, equipment grants and the cost of building the system.
  • Earth Insights found that the population of a number of species that were not considered to be in trouble were declining in 16 specific sites.
  • Earth Insights also found that a large number of species are stable. That’s good to know, too.

Here’s a video that shows the project in action.

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