How Open Data can be used to save the oceans

Steven Adler: “Within the next three years the maritime and ocean industries will establish a culture of sharing data
Steven Adler: “Within the next three years the maritime and ocean industries will establish a culture of sharing data" Photo: Blue-C
Maritime data can be used to prosper, create value and safeguard our oceans Photo: NOAA
Maritime data can be used to prosper, create value and safeguard our oceans Photo: NOAA

Maritime data can be used to prosper, create value and safeguard our oceans, or can be kept to ourselves and slowly stagnate, both commercially and environmentally.

That’s according to Steven Adler, a global pioneer in the field of data strategy and governance, who says the maritime industry must follow a wider business and societal trend and share the huge volume of data it collects.

“One maritime organisation collecting data for its own purposes can never maximise the value of that data. For one thing they can only compare it to their own data and, even if you’re a company with a lot of ships, you only have a tiny proportion of the 80,000 vessels in the world fleet. That means your observations and insights will be very narrow.

“Different ships sailing the same routes, but owned by different companies, could add geo temporal and geo spatial value and create rich new data that could help us all understand how our oceans are changing over time. When everyone shares open data, everyone wins.”

Value creation

Mr Adler knows what he’s talking about. Being a veteran of his field, he spent 21 years at IBM, ending up as chief data strategist, patenting the IBM Enterprise Privacy Architecture and helping lead and communicate the global giant’s overall corporate vision.

He is recognised as a prime mover in the establishment of the fields of internet insurance, data governance, data strategy and people data and in 2015 was appointed to the US Commerce Department Data Advisory Council (CDAC), the nation’s first Federal Advisory Council focused on how data could improve economic growth.

Mr Adler points to how apps use openly available data to provide people with value added services.

He notes examples such as public sector entities providing Open Data funded by taxpayers and, in doing so, empowering business to grow.

But he warns that the private sector now needs to step up and publish open data about the oceans in real time in the next ten years, or face catastrophic biodiversity loss in the oceans.

Priceless potential

Mr Adler stresses that, with the proliferation of sensors and digital technology now available, more data has been collected on the oceans in the past two years than in the entire history of the planet prior to that. But if it’s not shared then it’s value will never be realised.

On the subject of privacy he is quick to clarify that maritime and ocean businesses will not, and should not, be asked to share either business critical or personal data.

Rather, he sees ships as platforms just waiting to be utilised to help manage and essentially save, fragile ocean environments.

“We can use existing and new technology to help manage fish stocks, create safer and more efficient vessel movements, position wind and tidal farms, open up new tourism possibilities, develop smart aquaculture, protect urban coastal zones… to develop ocean activity in not only a sensible, responsible manner, but in an informed, intelligent way, with concrete data to enable better decision making,” he says.

Inevitable shift

Mr Adler, who stepped down from IBM last year, now enjoys a number of advisory and consultant roles, is

He will be speaking at Nor-Shipping in 2019 during the ground-breaking Opening Oceans Conference (OOC).

His message to the audience will be simple: “Share. And the sooner the better.”

“Within the next three years the maritime and ocean industries will establish a culture of sharing data,” he predicts.

“It’s inevitable. The benefits it will bring for sustainability, both environmentally and commercially, are simply too great to ignore.”

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