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The cloud to the aid of the forest (courtesy Google)

Posted in The cloud and the open source by Manas Ganguly on December 11, 2009

10th December: In the international climate change conference,Google demonstrated a new technology prototype that enables online, global-scale observation and measurement of changes in the earth’s forests.Hopefully, this technology will help stop the destruction of the world’s rapidly-disappearing forests.

Emissions from tropical deforestation are comparable to the emissions of all of the European Union, and are greater than those of all cars, trucks, planes, ships and trains worldwide. According to the Stern Review, protecting the world’s standing forests is a highly cost-effective way to cut carbon emissions and mitigate climate change. The United Nations has proposed a framework known as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) that would provide financial incentives to rainforest nations to protect their forests, in an effort to make forests worth “more alive than dead.” Implementing a global REDD system will require that each nation have the ability to accurately monitor and report the state of their forests over time, in a manner that is independently verifiable. However, many of these tropical nations of the world lack the technological resources to do this, and Google is working with scientists, governments and non-profits to change this.

Satellite imagery data can provide the foundation for measurement and monitoring of the world’s forests.This type of imagery data — past, present and future — is available all over the globe. Even so, while today you can view deforestation in Google Earth, until now there hasn’t been a way to measure it.

With this technology, it’s now possible for scientists to analyze raw satellite imagery data and extract meaningful information about the world’s forests, such as locations and measurements of deforestation or even regeneration of a forest. Google offers scientists and tropical nations access to a high-performance satellite imagery-processing engine running online, in the “Google cloud”. Google has also gathered together all of the earth’s raw satellite imagery data — petabytes of historical, present and future data on this platform.

An example here shows deforestation and degradation in Rondonia, Brazil from 1986-2008, with the red indicating recent activity.

Combining science with massive data and technology resources in this way offers the following advantages:

Unprecedented speed: On a top-of-the-line desktop computer, it can take days or weeks to analyze deforestation over the Amazon. Google’s cloud-based computing power,can reduce that time to seconds. Being able to detect illegal logging activities faster can help support local law enforcement and prevent further deforestation from happening.

Ease of use and lower costs: An online platform that offers easy access to data, scientific algorithms and computation horsepower from any web browser can dramatically lower the cost and complexity for tropical nations to monitor their forests.

Security, privacy and transparency: Governments and researchers don’t want to share sensitive data and results before they are ready. Google’s cloud-based platform allows users to control access to their data and results. At the same time, because the data, analysis and results reside online, they can also be easily shared, made available for collaboration, presented to the public and independently verified — when appropriate.

Climate change impact: A suitably scaled-up and enhanced version of this platform could be a promising as a tool for forest monitoring, reporting and verification (MRV) in support of efforts such as REDD.

Google will provide this technology to the world as a not-for-profit service. This technology prototype is currently available to a small set of partners for testing purposes — it’s not yet available to the general public but Google is expected to make it more broadly available over the next year.

Smartphone market to double in next five years

Posted in Mobile Devices and Company Updates by Manas Ganguly on December 11, 2009

Pyramid Research has calculated that the smartphone market will increase from 16% of global handset sales this year to 37% of the market in 2014. It says emerging markets will account for most of the sales; although the USA is currently the world’s leading country for smartphone sales, this leadership will switch to China in 2010. Brazil, India, Turkey, and Nigeria will be the fastest-growing markets over the next five years, with Latin America becoming the fastest-growing region.

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