How to build an operating system for Earth (Wired UK)


Planet OS


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Organising all the data that mankind collects every day from the
oceans, land, air and space is a mammoth task, let alone sharing it
with the world. But Rainer Sternfeld, CEO of Planet OS, believes his company
has the answer.

“With Planet OS, we want to help companies and governments to
design a better planet using Big Data,” he says. “We want to
significantly improve how humans interact with Big Data, how we
comprehend the complex stories these datasets are telling us.”

The centrepiece of Rainer’s plan is a platform where sensor data
from all across the world is collected, standardised and stored.
Researchers, governments and anyone else interested can access that
data through a web interface or download it. The company makes its
money by selling systems for organising private data, with the
option to access public data for free.

“When we ask companies how much time they spend moving,
discovering, cleaning and preparing the data, we see frustration
and rolling eyes literally every time,” Rainer told Wired.co.uk.
“Many of them don’t even know what data they have, let alone how to
make sense of it. Planet OS is changing that.”

How? First and foremost by making it reliable — most of the
data that people need is locked away on researchers’ hard drives,
despite being funded by public money. “You need to have the data be
interoperable, organised and up to date for the people and systems
who have the right to access it,” Rainer explains. 

The data isn’t collected by Planet OS — merely organised and
shared. “We have made a significant commitment to help to aggregate
and organise major public data sources for a common good,” Rainer
says. “We have 33 organisations we have partnered with there, and
we are just starting to look towards public data sources in land,
air and space.”

The company was until recently known as Marinexplore, which
Wired.co.uk  covered back in 2012. It dealt exclusively with ocean data, but
has taken the lessons learnt from the oceans to the rest of the
environment of our planet. “Since we started to develop our data
management system 18 months ago, we started to get questions [about
whether] our software processes non-marine data,” says Rainer. “The
requests grew, and we also got an investment from Philips
Electronics. It was clear we needed to expand the scope to land,
air and space use cases. The markets are orders of magnitude bigger
yet the offering is universally the same. Which is not to say that
it’s an easy task. It’s a tremendous engineering challenge.”

For the time being, Marinexplore will continue to exist as a
standalone service for its 7,000 users. “We wouldn’t have made a
significant investment in organising all this open data and
building a professional community around it if we weren’t serious
about our commitment to help with open data,” explains Rainer. But
if the community is willing, then all of the data could one day end
up in the same place. “A single open data site for planetary data
does make sense, I’m not against it,” he says.

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You can sign up on the Planet OS
website
to request a demo of what the company has in store, and
Rainer is bullish on what the company can accomplish. “The sensor
data market is growing fast, and planetary data is one of the key
growth areas next to connected homes, mobile phones, wearables,
etc. Smart sensors are being deployed everywhere and unmanned
vehicles in the water, on land, air and space are becoming
commonplace,” he says. “This is not just some scientific problem.
It’s a real-life problem.”

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19 June 2014 | 11:31 am – Source: wired.co.uk
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