Speaking at the Esri European User Conference in Oslo today, two keynote addresses directly linked the operations of two large organisations to geographic information systems (GIS). What made these keynotes noteworthy, was the fact that geography and geodata are aggressively pursued as a matter of conducting, and fulfilling organisational aims and objectives.
The European Environment Agency (EEA) actively delivers environmental information and services throughout the Europe. Jacqueline McGlade, Director at the EEA delivered her presentation on the title “Participatory Environmental Monitoring”.
The EEA “puts GIS at the heart of the agency,” she said. Delivering GIS services to over 490 million people in 20 languages is the challenge of her group.
“We are measuring many things, but ultimately the need is to deliver better data for local areas,” she indicated. As she sees it, the world and Europe is not well aligned to a sustainable path, and the use and application are tools that can help to bring better environmental understanding and improvement.
McGlade provided striking visual examples of the rapidly melting ice in the north with descriptions from as early as 2 weeks ago. Alluding the need for improving the dissemination of knowledge, she said, “we need to work on getting arctic knowledge into the longer term systems.” The EEA Eye On Earth project aims to do this, and is providing historical information for Europeans to see. In her view models alone are not enough, there is a need to get information out to local levels, and she points to crowd-sourcing and citizen science as primary contributors that will bring this about. EEA is a strong believer in breaking down silos of data and boundaries to data sharing. Web services and GIS are powerful tools that the agency is using to get the message out, and to engage people into their environmental futures.
Statoil is the world’s largest oil operator and conducts business in 36 countries, although the company most prominent in Norway. “We are not just interested in what we are doing, but how we are doing it, ” said Sonja Chirico Indrebo, CIO at Statoil.
She spoke about the need to take risks, to pursue new pathways and challenges and not to become too comfortable.
Statoil is a company that has continually pushed boundaries she said, and the company is very good at “performing innovation” – meaning that it repurposes and adapts to new situations, sometimes cross-purposing technology successfully in ways that might not have been thought about before.
Statoil went through a period recently where it drilled 80 wells in the North Sea, all without finding oil. Then, in 2011, employing new technology and geographic information, it was involved in 5 of 8 of the largest finds. “These can be attributed to imaging and interpretation of geographic information,” she said. “In the Stavanger area, the company explored 20 years ago, and now is using new technology approaches and making new discoveries.
The company has a long history of carbon capture involvement and is continuing to invest in that area, as well as wind, with 80 new turbines off the UK coast. One of the interesting concepts she put forward was with reference to the “underwater factory” as she named it – a concept that would see seabed infrastructure rather than wells above the wave surface. “It is not only information that has value, but the context of that information delivered to more people, ” she explained. There is a need for more continuous surveillance and real.time monitoring also.
Finally, she indicated that a goal of the company is to have more information about the ocean seabed itself, in a general sense, prior to any involvement. In other words – we need to direct our attention to understanding the seas and oceans better as they naturally exist.
Each of these keynotes provides a glimpse into not only how GIS is being used, but it’s value to the organisation in terms of meeting goals and business objectives.