Can Ocean Data Save the World?

Col­lec­tion used to be the big­gest fac­tor pre­vent­ing ocean in­dus­tries from us­ing data. These days, the is­sue is col­lab­o­ra­tion and data shar­ing.

Norway-Asia Business Review - - F OREWORD - CHEYENNE HOLLIS

The re­cently launched Ocean Data Foun­da­tion hopes to pro­vide the plat­form that lib­er­ates ocean data once and for all.

Mr Bjørn Tore Markussen, CEO of the Ocean Data Foun­da­tion, re­calls a com­mon prob­lem fac­ing the shipping in­dus­try, “Ves­sels still hit whales and when they do, it can kill these mag­nif­i­cent crea­tures, dam­age ships and even in­jure pas­sen­gers. Right now there po­ten­tially is a lot of in­for­ma­tion about where whales are and where they are go­ing that can be col­lected but the data is not shared in a way that allows sci­en­tists to ef­fec­tively pin­point whales and share this in­for­ma­tion with ships.”

He adds, “If we have could ag­gre­gate key whale data, an­a­lyse it and pro­vide that in­for­ma­tion to shipping com­pa­nies, they could then in­cor­po­rate that into their own knowl­edge base and find their own cre­ative ways to solve the is­sue. It could be through bet­ter route plan­ning or know­ing when and how to avoid whales in real time. These shipping com­pa­nies

could then turn around and share these find­ings with oth­ers thus con­tribut­ing more data, build­ing the knowl­edge base.”

In many ways, the Ocean Data Foun­da­tion sees it­self as a match­maker of ocean data pro­duc­ers and users. A busi­ness, re­searcher or even the pub­lic should have a place where they can add data or ex­plore what’s avail­able. Mr Markussen be­lieves the value of data al­ways comes from the ap­pli­ca­tion of it and is hop­ing that by stream­lin­ing the process of data ac­ces­si­bil­ity, ap­pli­ca­tion of data to de­ci­sion making be­comes much eas­ier.

“They say you don’t know what you don’t know and that’s true. But the goal of the Ocean Data Foun­da­tion is to make it pos­si­ble to have ac­cess to greater amounts of what we do know - data and in­for­ma­tion,” Mr Markussen states. “Cur­rently, if you ask a ques­tion, such as ‘where are whales?’, and don’t have the data in-house to an­swer it, you kind of reach a dead end.”

He con­tin­ues, “The Ocean Data Foun­da­tion is be­ing built to be a place where you can ask a ques­tion, find the necessary data re­sources and ap­ply what you now know to­wards a so­lu­tion with­out hit­ting a dead end. Us­ing data from var­i­ous col­lec­tion points to solve an is­sue has far-reach­ing ocean ben­e­fits. We think this ap­proach will cre­ate a new era of ocean syn­ergy.”

Cre­at­ing smart oceans

Mr Markussen is no stranger to the ocean hav­ing grown up close to Tromsø in north­ern Nor­way. His pro­fes­sional ca­reer saw him work in Asia at DNV GL and build up­rac­, DNV GL’s in­dus­try data plat­form. These ex­pe­ri­ences helped him bet­ter un­der­stand what was needed for the Ocean Data Foun­da­tion.

“The one thing I re­alised is that ide­al­ism alone won’t fix the ocean’s prob­lems. The so­lu­tion needs to be a mix of ide­al­ism, cap­i­tal­ism and in­dus­tri­al­ism to en­sure suc­cess,” Mr Markussen says. “For me, this is a chance to go back to my roots. I’m very pas­sion­ate about the ocean and sus­tain­abil­ity. We want to as­sist ev­ery­one who is also com­mit­ted to this cause by em­pow­er­ing them with the data necessary for so­lu­tions.”

The Aker Group in Nor­way and REV Ocean back the Ocean Data

Foun­da­tion. It is also sup­ported by the Aker Group-owned Cog­nite, one of the fastest grow­ing soft­ware com­pa­nies in the Nordics. As such, the plat­form and newly re­cruited core team has pre­vi­ous ocean in­dus­try or ocean sci­ence ven­tures al­low­ing it to hit the ground run­ning.

Cre­ated as a non-profit, non­com­pete en­tity, the goal is for the foun­da­tion to build and host a plat­form where ev­ery­one can con­trib­ute and be in­volved be­cause that is what will have the great­est pos­i­tive im­pact on the ocean.

Un­der­stand­ing the sup­ply and de­mand of ocean and mar­itime data is re­quired be­fore that im­pact can be achieved. At the mo­ment, sup­ply is plen­ti­ful, but de­mand is lim­ited yet grow­ing. Mr Markussen at­tributes that to the fact most data are siloed, hard to find, and even harder to fuse to­gether.

“Cre­at­ing a cen­tral hub doesn’t mean just serving up all of the world’s ocean data. The chal­lenge for us is to un­der­stand what data has value and to lib­er­ate what is in de­mand. If we can suc­cess­fully do this, it’s pos­si­ble to add value to ocean-re­lated fields, such as shipping and en­ergy, as well as ed­u­ca­tion and sci­ence,” Mr Markussen re­ports. “Data prob­a­bly has more value than we un­der­stand. But to­day peo­ple are un­aware of how they can share their data and find other sources of data.”

The Ocean Data Foun­da­tion has iden­ti­fied three key data sources to be­gin its work: sci­ence, in­dus­try, and cit­i­zens. Each source has a wealth of in­for­ma­tion avail­able, but lib­er­at­ing it is not with­out chal­lenges. Sci­ence data, in par­tic­u­lar, needs to be han­dled with care.

“In academia, pro­mo­tion is a mat­ter of get­ting credit for your work. Data prove­nance is very im­por­tant for sci­en­tists and that is why we have put data lin­eage, en­ti­tle­ment, and citation at the top of our list of chal­lenges to solve. Usu­ally in aca­demics, when re­search is done, the re­sults aren’t made pub­lic un­til a pa­per is pub­lished. This is a time-con­sum­ing way to do things,” Mr Markussen de­tails. “We’re set­ting up the Ocean Data Foun­da­tion in such a way that allows sci­en­tists and re­searchers to pub­lish their re­sults to en­sure they re­ceive credit for it be­fore need­ing to pub­lish a pa­per.”

Ocean-fo­cused in­dus­tries ob­vi­ously col­lect a lot of data. Ac­cord­ing to Mr Markussen, even when they are will­ing, shar­ing data is eas­ier said than done for in­dus­trial data own­ers. Mean­while, cit­i­zen-sci­ence data is use­ful, non­stan­dard­ized, and also a bit over­whelm­ing since there are so many po­ten­tial sources.

Find­ing part­ners

The Ocean Data Foun­da­tion has al­ready reached part­ner­ship agree­ments with The Nor­we­gian Uni­ver­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy, Sin­tef Ocean, Global Fish­ing Watch and the World Wildlife Fund and is look­ing for more. Mr Markussen notes the project re­quires part­ners who un­der­stand the true po­ten­tial of what can even­tu­ally be ac­com­plished with data.

“Part­ners ul­ti­mately need to share our pas­sion and vision for a bet­ter ocean en­vi­ron­ment. They need to be in­stinc­tively cu­ri­ous. They must have a de­sire to con­stantly be learn­ing about how they can im­prove,” he points out. “At the end of the day, what is good for the en­vi­ron­ment is good for busi­ness and pol­icy, so our part­ners must share that mind­set.”

Of course, shar­ing and stor­ing data presents a unique set of chal­lenges that are dif­fer­ent for each part­ner. With height­ened aware­ness re­gard­ing data se­cu­rity, the Ocean Data Foun­da­tion un­der­stands the re­spon­si­bil­i­ties that come with the project.

“Data lib­er­a­tion is im­por­tant, but it can’t be done at any cost. We will com­ply with all lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional rules and reg­u­la­tions re­gard­ing data col­lec­tion and stor­age and we have le­gal part­ners to ad­vise us ev­ery step of the way,” Mr Markussen says. “That is a key fac­tor in build­ing trust for the pro­gram.”

Ig­nit­ing the rev­o­lu­tion

En­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial gov­er­nance (ESG) is an­other area be­ing care­fully watched by the Ocean Data Foun­da­tion. With busi­nesses and pol­i­cy­mak­ers now pri­ori­tis­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal re­port­ing, there is a needed for greater sup­port when it comes to man­ag­ing ESG data.

“Our work is less about a data rev­o­lu­tion and more about a trans­parency rev­o­lu­tion. Com­pa­nies need to show what they are do­ing and how they are do­ing it. Espe­cially when it comes to en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact,” Mr Markussen notes. “We also know pol­i­cy­mak­ers, as­set own­ers and fi­nanciers want the data as well. It allows them to make faster, more in­formed de­ci­sions. The plat­form can help re­move the guess­work and re­duce wait­ing times when it comes to ESG.”

But just like any start-up, Ocean Data Foun­da­tion needs proof of con­cept be­fore it can scale and ac­cel­er­ate. It is some­thing Mr Markussen is aware of as he looks to build trust and con­trib­ute to a healthy ocean eco-sys­tem.

“We are ex­tremely enthusiast­ic about what we can ac­com­plish, but the first thing we must do is demon­strate that we can solve prob­lems and help in a mean­ing­ful way,” Mr Markussen pro­claims. “Data can help the ocean, but only if it is shared and used. This is a vision I strongly be­lieve in.”



Above left: Above left: HRH Crown Prince Haakon of Nor­way (far left) at the Ocean Data Foun­da­tion launch. Above: The Ocean Data Foun­da­tion core team has pre­vi­ous ocean in­dus­try or ocean sci­ence ven­tures ex­pe­ri­ence.

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