What can companies do with new forms of actionable environmental intelligence and what value does it bring? Here is everything you need to know about leveraging environmental data as a business in 2021.
Defining ‘Environmental Data’
When we talk about environmental data, we’re referring to raw data that indicates the state of the environment in some way - the data could be in the form of a current snapshot or reflect changes over time.
What are the Common Sources of Environmental Data?
NASA, the CDC, the EPA, and many other national and global organizations, store and catalog a range of raw environmental data for public access. Governments, agencies, and scientific bodies tend to use a range of environmental monitoring methods to set emission standards and inform on pollution levels, conservation efforts, sustainable water management, and even measure economic impacts.
Some examples of methods used to collect data include:
Air pollution monitoring stations
Water & soil samples
Wildlife species & vegetation monitoring
Meteorological satellite information
Pollen monitoring stations
The Environmental Data Revolution
Environmental science emerged as a formal discipline during the Enlightenment era of the 17th and 18th centuries. Of course, we’ve come a long way since using quill pens and paper to record data:
Satellites now orbit the earth and scan for atmospheric changes - temperature, moisture, wind, cloud cover, air quality, wildfires & more - then communicate this data back to weather forecast centers, which then translate it into meteorological imagery.
Smarter Environmental Monitoring Networks: Connected IoT devices and sensors are now used to enhance and power crowd-sourced environmental monitoring at a low cost. Together with machine learning, these smarter networks of environmental monitoring systems provide effective and efficient tracking of environmental factors like air quality, water pollution, and even radiation.
How Big Data & AI Gave Rise to Powerful Environmental Prediction Models
Raw data provides a great foundation for analyzing and understanding the environment. But we also need to translate this information into meaningful insights so end users can plan and adjust behavior accordingly.
The evolution of modern environmental monitoring and forecasting tools means we can collect and store astronomical amounts of environmental information in the form of extremely large datasets which can then be analyzed computationally to uncover patterns, trends, and associations like never before:
Climate Computing - Data scientists use Big Data and AI tools to study and forecast climate changes through a ‘System of Systems’ approach. Climate computing bridges diverse disciplines and research ideas, then process them together to deliver a more comprehensive picture.
Restoring Historical Data - Data scientists can reconstruct missing climate information, enabling them to fill observational gaps in historical environmental datasets.
Hyper-accurate Weather Forecasts - European researchers utilize machine learning to structure huge amounts of environmental data collected by different sources. Processing compounded data in a more streamlined fashion enables crucially-needed hyper-accurate and hyper-local weather forecasts.
Health-focused Environmental Insights & New Business Use Cases
Environmental science and reporting have evolved during an era that can finally deliver on the promise of ‘personalized health’. The global wellness market is currently estimated at $1.5 trillion, with an annual growth rate of up to 10% - and extreme climate events and a global pandemic are drawing ever more attention to the impact of environmental exposure on personal health.
Businesses from a wide range of industries are developing new and innovative use cases based on health-focused environmental intelligence:.
a) Environmentally Intelligent Homes & Buildings
Smart air purifiers and HVAC systems utilize real-time and forecast environmental information to add value for customers - optimizing performance, maintenance, and offering remote management according to the real-time & predicted environmental reality outdoors. Learn more about these use cases here.
b) Better Informed Risk Indexes
Insurance companies are turning to environmental intelligence to understand an individual’s exposure status and verify and optimize claim accuracy. Insurers looking to predict climate change-related disasters can also use environmental intelligence to alert customers of impending danger, maintain asset value, and avoid higher damage claims.
c) Improved Consumer App Experiences
Weather apps: Expanding the variety of actionable environmental data provided helps weather providers consolidate their status as regular go-to sources for environmental information. Users become inclined to check their apps more often, incorporating them into their daily decision-making - and boosting monetization/advertising options for providers.
Leisure, Fitness & Wellness apps: A wide range of consumer apps can now recommend outdoor activities when environmental conditions are favorable, e.g. tell users when and where to exercise and what are the safest hours to go to work out or take a walk with the kids.
d) Smarter Healthcare & Clinical Research
Connected Devices & Patient apps: Treatment providers track medication use and reported symptoms and correlate them with environmental data to draw personalized predictive insights. Patients can also receive alerts to take medicine preemptively or stay indoors to avoid symptom exacerbation as a result of environmental exposure.
Cost-saving: Adopting a personalized value-based medicine approach, physicians can remotely monitor patient symptoms and environmental risks and adjust treatment plans accordingly. Both patients and providers spend less by reducing the need for in-person doctor visits and preventing avoidable hospitalizations.
Clinical Research: Researchers can correlate environmental triggers with patient symptoms and other personal and lifestyle factors to inform and compare treatment efficacy/adherence.
e) Personalized Advertising & Sales based on the Environment
Dynamic ad delivery & messaging: Ad agencies can deliver the right message at the right time to the right audiences based on real-time & predicted environmental changes - dramatically boosting ROI & campaign engagement.
Sales Enablement Tools: By integrating environmental data into presentation dashboards used by sales personnel, pharmaceutical companies are better demonstrating the need and value of their solutions when talking to physicians and care providers.
f) Cleaner Route Planning & Vehicle Protection
Actively Dodging air pollution: Safe route-planning apps provide real-time visualization of environmental data with contextual insights educating users on the health risks of each option. They encourage users to choose healthier routes by offering cleaner alternatives and comparing estimated time-to-destination.
Preventing In-cabin contamination: Through apps and car dashboard integration, environmental intelligence can minimize pollutant entry into cabins by alerting drivers of real-time changes in air quality and weather on their route. Visualized environmental data maps also help drivers plan routes through the cleanest city areas. (Learn how Tata Motors empower their drivers to breathe cleaner air on the road here).
How to Leverage Environmental Intelligence for Your Business
The range of use cases and benefits of environmental insights for commercial settings in 2021 is clear, but where do you actually practically start?
Integrate Environmental APIs!
Environmental APIs present one of the easiest ways for businesses and organizations to leverage actionable information about the environment without having to develop their own monitoring infrastructure:
a) Air Pollution APIs
Air Pollution APIs can be integrated into apps, dashboards, and connected products to map and alert users of real-time and forecast outdoor air pollution. (Learn more here).
What to Look For: Global Coverage, Hourly Refresh, Accuracy- Validation, Pollutant Variety, Level of Granularity.
b) Weather APIs
Weather APIs can be integrated to provide real-time weather alerts and daily/weekly forecasts to help users plan events, prepare for strong weather and extreme climate events.
What to Look For: Hourly Forecast Updates, Visibility, Wind & Air Pressure, UV Index, Global Monitoring, Live Map Imagery, Weather Event Alerts.
c) Wildfire APIs
Wildfire APIs can be integrated to report wildfires according to user location and report fire spread in real-time. Actionable insights here might range from worsening air quality alerts in response to smoke pollution, to active fire evacuation warnings. (Learn more here).
What to Look For: Fire Size, Direction, Spread Prediction, Containment Rate, Cause, Alert Radius Size, Air Quality Warnings.
d) Pollen APIs
Pollen data APIs can be used to enhance allergy treatment tools with personalized daily pollen forecasts, predictive allergy medication alerts, and actionable health & lifestyle insights that improve patient outcomes. (Learn more here).
What to Look For: Different Plant & Pollen Type Separation, Heatmap Visualizations, Universal Pollen Index, Daily Forecasts, Data Source Cross-validation.