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Amazon Launches ‘Sustainable Data Initiative’ to Promote Sustainability Research and Innovation

Amazon today announced the Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative to promote sustainability research, innovation, and problem-solving by making key data easily accessible and even more widely available.

The Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative leverages Amazon Web Services’ technology and scalable infrastructure to stage, analyze, and distribute data, and is a joint effort between the AWS Open Data and Amazon Sustainability teams. The AWS Open Data program already makes numerous datasets available for public use through its Registry of Open Data on AWS. Amazon’s Sustainability Team began collaborating with AWS last year to start warehousing the vast amounts of public data that describe our planet. The initiative identifies foundational data for sustainability and works closely with data providers like NOAA to stage their data in the AWS Cloud by giving them complete ownership and control over how their data is shared.

While these datasets have always been freely available, they aren’t always easily accessible, and researchers may not have the compute power necessary to take advantage of these resources through their own on-premises data centers. Examples of datasets already available through the initiative include weather observations and forecast data, climate projections data, satellite imagery, hydrological data, air quality data, and ocean forecast data. Amazon has maintained that providing easier access to massive datasets (i.e. petabyte-scale) in the cloud will help researchers and innovators address a wide range of sustainability challenges, such as the impacts of climate change and weather extremes.

By removing the burden of data acquisition, the Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative enables faster research at lower cost. To encourage application development, researchers can apply for AWS Promotional Credits through the AWS Cloud Credits for Research program. Offsetting these costs will encourage experimentation and promote innovative solutions. For example, AWS is collaborating with the Group on Earth Observations (GEO) to provide up to $1.5 million in cloud credits for projects to improve the understanding of our planet. The new GEO-AWS collaboration will offer GEO member agencies and research organizations in developing countries access to cloud services for hosting, processing, and analysis of Earth observation data to inform decisions for sustainable development.

Sharing data in the cloud enables anyone to easily access large datasets to perform modeling and analysis at a scale that was previously limited to institutions with access to super computers and dedicated data centers. To encourage the exchange of technical knowledge, the Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative works with users to document and share lessons learned through blog posts, tutorials, and open source code, all of which can be found on the Registry of Open Data on AWS.

AWS has millions of active customers around the world and many of those customers are already doing innovative work by leveraging open data and AWS capabilities. For example, Element84 is exploring the use of AWS open satellite imagery and machine learning algorithms by using Amazon SageMaker to provide timely and critical information (e.g., location of buildings) during disaster response efforts.

NASA is working with Development Seed to create a deep learning-based hurricane intensity estimator, and a tool to accurately assess a tropical cyclone’s intensity. GREENSPIN uses data from the European Union’s Copernicus program to improve agricultural practices. Projects like Temperate, CalAdapt, and StormSense are providing cloud-based tools to help communities better understand and prepare for the impacts of climate change. A group of researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the American Bird Conservancy recently published a paper about bird migration patterns based on NOAA’s NEXRAD weather data that is freely available on AWS.

AWS “allows us to do things at scale that have not been done at scale before,” says Josh Hacker, Co-founder of Jupiter Intel, which helps organizations prepare for climate change and weather risks. AWS customers, such as Sinergise, Intertrust, and OpenAQ, are increasing access to data by developing tools that help others access and use the open data on AWS.

According to Amazon, the Amazon Sustainability Data Initiative will support AWS customers in their sustainability work so that innovators and researchers are supported with the data, tools, and technical expertise they need to move sustainability to the next level.

We are currently accepting submissions for the 2019 Environmental Leader Awards. Learn more and submit a project or product here.

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