The work of the European Environment Agency to collect and disseminate the environmental details of their 32 member countries goes well beyond the typical mandate due to the vision and sense of urgency that the executive director Jacqueline McGlade provides. Not only is the agency sharing their data openly and transparently, they’re providing a framework and applications to communicate that data more readily to constituents. The promise of sensors and systems has also made the organization not only a proponent of the approach, but into a developer themselves of low-cost sensors through research grants and the framing of technical challenges that need to be overcome.
I had the great pleasure of sitting down McGlade at the Esri International User Conference where she shared her vision on the importance of sensors.
“When I first wanted to push sensors, I found as you might expect that the American continent had the bulk of sensor developers. We really didn’t have so many in the European setting. What I can see now is a very interesting phenomenon where there are fantastic sensor development, but they haven’t connected to the user. There are really smart approaches, with nanoscale sizes, but they haven’t found who is going to use them in many cases. On the other hand, there are many people that haven’t even thought of using a sensor, because they didn’t think it was possible.
While we can find one or two sensors that are fit for purpose, we need to think ourselves about shaping that whole industry. We have started doing that with contracts out for sensor development to ruggedize sensors, to prove the telecommunications package, and battery life, etc. I used to work a lot in the marine sector on instruments, and I think we can learn a lot from that technology development in many areas.
Sensors are the future. It is a way in which citizens, if properly priced, can participate. I’m after adding to what countries can do by having citizens bring in data and see it being used. It’s not just crowsdourcing, but professionalizing ways in which citizens can participate.”
Read the full interview here.