Readers of this site know that I don’t like mass surveillance of human beings; however, the technology behind the tools used for intrusive observations of our private lives can be used to help animals. Henri Weimerskirch, a French ecologist, is using tons of little sensors on birds to monitor both birds and what they eat (fish). Right now we use human observation, satellites imagery, and radios to track animals. What Weimerskirch is doing now is to use mass data collection a la mass surveillance to monitor the well being of birds and fish.
The bird spies join an arsenal of technologies being used and developed around the world to catch illegal and unregistered fishing boats. The main tool right now is satellite surveillance, which has provided important big-picture data. But it relies on ships having signaling systems on board—which many unregistered vessels don’t, and which can be easily switched off to provide cover for illegal activity. The information is also relatively low-resolution and only updated every few hours.
This fall, as Weimerskirch’s birds begin patrolling the Indian Ocean, the waters around the Republic of Seychelles will come under new scrutiny. The government is partnering with FishGuard, a project developed by the drone company ATLAN Space and the nonprofit GRID-Arendal. The coast guard will control drones for two modes of operation: targeted missions and surveillance. In targeted use, the coast guard will send them to check out a suspicious boat that’s been previously identified. In surveillance mode, the drones will patrol a set area, and their artificial intelligence system will identify and report boats that match a registry of unregistered and illegal vessels.
Mass surveillance is everywhere in modern cities. Cameras are on every corner monitoring all sorts of activities, which led one person to think about using them to see if traffic cameras can be used to replace traffic cops. The short answers is yes. Personally, I don’t see mass surveillance as a good thing but what I find really interesting about this isn’t the policing aspect but the data collection of how streets are used. In the example setup it was found that cars broke the laws quite a lot and endangered the lives of cyclists. Maybe we can use the technology to better understand how streets get used and what we can do to ensure traffic flows.
During a 10 day period in December 2017,
- bike lane was blocked 40% of the time (57% weekdays 7am to 7pm)
- bus stop was blocked 57% of the time (55% weekdays 7am to 7pm)
Keep in mind this is just one average block. This means if you are riding in a bike lane you are swerving blind in and out of the bike lane every other block. And if you are on a bus your commute just got longer.
How we manage local water sources drastically alters how we grow crops and get drinking water. Cape Town is currently experience a water crisis that was in the making for decades because of poor water use policies. Desalination plants can help coastal cities provide water to their populace by separating salt from seawater. Wired has a good article on how one company is improving desalination techniques for growing crops, which, they predict can help bring plant life to arid regions.
The structure’s double-layered fibreglass roof transmitted sunlight but captured heat, diverting it through ducts into a compartment at the building’s rear. There, the heat was used to distill freshwater out of seawater for irrigation. The rest was vaporised and sucked through the growing space by fans to cool and humidify the plants, reducing transpiration. Paton calculated that a square metre of crops adjacent to the greenhouse would have required eight litres of water per day to offset what they lost in transpiration. “But inside we were using closer to one litre per square metre per day, and we were growing a better crop.”
Paton is also interested in the long term restorative benefits of his invention. Davies’ model predicted that the greenhouse’s cooling and humidifying effect would seep into the surrounding environment: “You can see there would be a plume of cool air coming off the greenhouse,” he says. And since the region hasn’t always been barren, Paton thinks greenhouses could return parts of it to the naturally vegetated state it was in before overgrazing and drought took hold. “I believe that when you get to, say, 20 years, you’d have enough vegetation to do the job of the greenhouses because they’re creating shade and shared humidity – changing the climate.” Because vegetation sequesters carbon, that also has broader ramifications for mitigating the effects of climate change.
The European Union’s newest mining project focuses on urban areas throughout the continent. Their ProSUM project built a database of metals, chemicals, and materials brought into the EU market over the last ten plus years; the idea is that the produced goods can be “mined” again. It’s a really novel way to approach recycle by positioning the recycling process as a mining opportunity. To help companies and organizations understand the plentitude of materials available in existing products (most of which are in landfills or recycling centres) they launched a website the Urban Mine Platform.
The project outcomes are embedded in the European Commission’s (EC) Raw Materials Information System (RMIS) in order to create a more comprehensive and structured repository of knowledge related to primary and secondary sources consumed in the EU, relevant for many stakeholders:
- Manufacturers can gain confidence about future recycled raw material supplies.
- Recyclers will have better intelligence about the changes in product types and material content which impact on their business and provide future recovery potential.
- The mining industry will have greater certainty about the quantities and types of materials needed in the marketplace, mitigating risk and improving profitability.
- Policymakers will be better informed on raw material supplies, which affect jobs and financial institutions, and how materials are linked to energy consumption.
- Researchers will have better data quantity, quality, completeness and reliability.
To some people space missions seem like a waste of resources, yet, thanks to many space missions we get scientific benefits. Launched by the European Union, the constellation of satirists known as Copernicus are constantly doing weather observations. Copernicus’ six families of satellites are scanning the planet to help understand climate change. It’s already been used in industry and what’s more is that the amount of data is free to researchers around the world.
“In the field of air quality, a few years ago, there was no way of taking into account raging fires in near-real-time,” says Dr. Vincent-Henri Peuch, Head of the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service (CAMS), “Now, thanks to modelling and observing capabilities from ground to satellite, we can provide this information — and more importantly with a high degree of confidence.” They can also forecast European fire risk up to ten days ahead.
Such findings are not only vital in national and European environmental lawmaking; earth data-driven public initiatives can also fuel social and commercial gains.
The National Observatory of Athens developed a tourism app that draws from CAMS information — such as pollen, UV index and ozone levels. This makes it easy for visitors to plan ahead and then enjoy their stay in Greece enough to want to return.