by Linwood Pendleton (Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution - Ocean)

The Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution – Ocean, an affiliate of the World Economic Forum, is partnering with the Ocean Data Platform to pilot Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) solutions to ocean problems. The Ocean Data Platform (ODP) is a new data infrastructure to pilot and scale data-oriented solutions to help chart a sustainable blue economy.

In the last 12 months, the Ocean Data Platform (ODP) has emerged as a new data infrastructure for piloting solutions to some of the key data sharing and access problems that must be overcome to chart a course for a sustainable blue economy.

The Ocean Data Platform [L1] was originally conceived of and created by REV Ocean [L2], a not-for-profit company that is building the world’s largest luxury research yacht of the same name. REV Ocean is dedicated to creating new science and technology to improve the health of the ocean and is set to become one of the world’s most sophisticated and prolific producers of ocean data and knowledge. The ODP and REV Ocean work closely together, sharing knowledge, expertise, and sometimes human resources.

The ODP was created in part to deal with the huge variety and volume of data that will be produced by the research vessel, but the platform was also conceived with the understanding that the data challenges to be experienced by the REV Ocean are just a microcosm of those facing the use of ocean data worldwide. The ODP plans to scale solutions developed working with REV Ocean to a more global set of data providers and users. More recently, the mandate of the ODP has grown thanks to its merger with the Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (C4IR) Ocean – an affiliate centre of the World Economic Forum’s C4IR Network. The C4IR Ocean brings together partners from businesses, governments, academia, and conservation organisations to identify and solve challenges that might impede the application of 4IR technologies to ocean problems.

Why do we need to pilot 4IR solutions for the ocean?
The ocean is changing rapidly due to climate change and human pressure. Decisionmakers and researchers need more and better data to understand, monitor, and model ocean conditions. Ocean data are key to planning for sustainable development [L3], but also for industry to use the ocean and its resources and even to protect national security [1]. Yet, many aspects of the ocean remain poorly measured and monitored.

New fourth industrial revolution technologies have dramatically increased our ability to observe the ocean and the people who use it. Satellites can collect ocean data without regard to national borders and sovereignty. Autonomous devices can glean ocean data from below the surface, sometimes surreptitiously. Massive amounts of big ocean data from video, imagery, sound, radar, and a variety of new sources of data are emerging.

As the technology for collecting ocean data has rapidly expanded, so too has the number of types, formats, and standards being applied to ocean data. Getting data from source to user remains a huge challenge. Even when technological solutions exist for the liberation and sharing of data, much digital information – including open data – remains trapped in silos, prevented from flowing by cultural, proprietary, legal, and diplomatic issues. The goal of the ODP is to make more data open and to make open data easier to find and use.

Recognising the role of data for securing a healthy, safe, and productive ocean and the need to quickly break down these barriers, the United Nations called for a decade [L4] dedicated, in part, to a global transformation in how ocean data are collected and shared around the world. The C4IR Ocean was created, in part, to meet that call to action.

How does it work?
All C4IR affiliates work with the C4IR headquarters in San Francisco, California, to find governance solutions to challenges associated with six key areas of 4IR technology (See  Figure 1). Governance solutions include voluntary approaches, best practices, agreed upon standards, and even regulation that may improve societal outcomes by improving the discovery and flow of data, interoperability and transparency, while also protecting privacy and intellectual property. All six areas of focus have direct application to the blue economy and sustainable ocean challenges. 

Figure 1: Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution focal areas.
Figure 1: Centre for the Fourth Industrial Revolution focal areas.

The process followed by the C4IR Ocean has four key steps: (i) scan for challenges and opportunities, (ii) convene partners to brainstorm solutions, (iii) pilot solutions, and (iv) scale up. The Ocean Data Platform serves as an important tool for piloting data-oriented solutions.

The ODP is being built intentionally to meet the needs of those who demand more and better ocean data – specifically those app and tool builders, scientists, and modellers creating new sustainability solutions for planners, businesses, and others in the ocean sector. That means we need to build fast and efficient means of ingesting data, develop new ways of tracking data provenance, guarantee data integrity, and design better visualisation, navigation and data extraction tools. To do this, the ODP is built on Cognite Data Fusion which has been developed to handle massive amounts of industrial data, especially for maritime industries.

Figure 2: The Ocean Data Platform - data flow and infrastructure.
Figure 2: The Ocean Data Platform - data flow and infrastructure.

The data moving through the ODP will be drawn from a variety of sources including traditional, open, institutional ocean data as well as data from industry, independent scientists, and even private citizens (Figure 2). Trusted sources include (but are not limited to) data like those hosted by International Oceanographic Information and Data Exchange, the World Ocean Database, the Global Ocean Observing System, SeaDataNet, EMODNET, the EU’s Copernicus and the USA’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and more specialised data like AIS and VMS vessel data, satellite imagery, acoustic, and other types of data. As we learn by working to pilot these C4IR Ocean use cases, we will continually add new data sources to the ODP.

Of course, the ODP is not alone in recognising the need for new ways to access ocean data. Many ocean data portals are being built around unique data sources or for specific purposes. As a true data platform, the ODP will integrate the good work of these portals and data sources and allow for the open source creation of new tools and analysis based on these combined efforts.


[1] L. Pendleton, K. Evans, M. Visbeck: “Opinion: We need a global movement to transform ocean science for a better world”, proc. of the National Academy of Sciences 117 (18), 9652-9655, 2020
[2] J., M. Abbott, H. Sakaguchi et al.: “Technology, Data and New Models for Sustainably Managing Ocean Resources. Washing, DC: World Resources Institute”, 2020.

Please contact:
Linwood Pendleton, Centre for the 4th Industrial Revolution – Ocean, Norway
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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