European Environment Agency and Microsoft Eye on Earth Observatory bring Europaan beach quality into sharp focus
Collecting data on the environment
In July 2008, Microsoft and the European Environment Agency (EEA) announced the launch of the pioneering Eye on Earth online environmental observatory and the first of its resources, Water Watch. Eye on Earth is part of a five-year collaboration between the EEA and Microsoft that will ultimately gather together critical information, including European water soil, air and ozone indicators, into one place.
“As environmental problems become more evident and affect the lives of ordinary individuals, it is vitally important that we can access relevant and timely information on the impact of environmental change,” says Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the EEA. “With Eye on Earth, the EEA and Microsoft plan to bring complex strands of information together into a single, simple-to-use and easy-to-understand application — so, as more data and user findings are posted on the portal, we can see how climate change affects the way we live and how the way we live affects the environment.”
Using Microsoft's Virtual Earth mapping technology, Eye on Earth provides a bird's-eye view of the beach users plan to visit, while Microsoft SQL Server 2008's data management and geospatial capabilities provide information that help them to understand the cleanliness of the water they or their families plan to swim in. Gadgets in Windows Vista ensure that this information is always quickly and easily available from any internet-enabled PC. Microsoft is also making Eye on Earth available to over 100 million users of the MSN online media network through specially localised channels in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and the UK.
Eye on Earth retrieves data from 21,000 monitoring points across Europe, presenting recent water quality ratings for bathing sites in 27 countries, and for some beaches, historical ratings for up to the past 18 years. A traffic-light-style evaluation of water quality based on traditional monitoring methods is supported by similar ratings reflecting the experiences of people who have visited the beach. Combining these streams of information provides accurate and upto- date information on bathing water quality across Europe, and makes it available to anyone who has access to the internet.
“Eye on Earth is a great example of how technology has the power to help governments, business and individuals understand what is happening to our environment,” says Rob Bernard, chief environmental strategist at Microsoft. “By combining environmental data with mapping technologies, it is possible for people to see where changes are happening. Eye on Earth provides people with information which has historically been difficult to find. With this new application, people will be more informed and be able to take appropriate actions to help ensure a cleaner environment.”
“Poor-quality bathing water is a real risk to everyone's health and can prevent us from enjoying our seas and rivers,” says Ben Skinner, International Longboard champion and member of the British Surfing Association team. “For the first time, Eye on Earth's Water Watch not only gives us the ability to know what we are going to find when we get into the water, but also provides us with the information we need to demand urgent action from governments, businesses and individuals. The partnership between the EEA and Microsoft is giving us the resources to force change and protect our natural environment.”