University of Alberta uses IBM InfoSphere Stream for research

A group of Canadian and internal researchers and graduate students working on the University of Alberta’s climate research project is using IBM’s InfoSphere Stream software to crunch, correlate and analyze data in order to detect, visualize and predict subtle changes in the environment.

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 . The data is gathered by more than 500 sensors located in some of the world’s most remote and vulnerable ecosystems.

“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,” said Dr. Arturo Sanchez-Azofeifa  of the university’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and  leader of the Enviro-Net project. “Now, we can basically ‘see’ the forests breathing in real-time.”

He said the depth of insights now being produced has not previously been available in real-time.

Students from the university 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.

“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,” said Bernie Kollman , IBM’s vice-president, for public sector in Alberta.  “It will also help other policy makers around the world support environmental stewardship.”

The University of Alberta collaborated with researchers from IBM’s T.J. Watson Laboratory to integrate InfoSphere Stream 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.

IBM awarded Dr. Sanchez-Azofeifa use 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.

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Nestor Arellano
Nestor Arellano
Toronto-based journalist specializing in technology and business news. Blogs and tweets on the latest tech trends and gadgets.

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