Microsoft Launches ‘Planetary Computer’ to Reach Biodiversity Goals

(Photo Credit: Gabriel Gabriel, Unsplash)

by | Apr 16, 2020

Microsoft Launches 'Planetary Computer' to Reach Biodiversity Goals

(Photo Credit: Gabriel Gabriel, Unsplash)

Microsoft is creating a new Planetary Computer platform to provide insights about species, biodiversity, and ecosystems. The move represents the next step in the company’s 2020 sustainability efforts, according to the tech giant.

In January, Microsoft detailed a long-term plan to become carbon negative by 2030, and tackle historical emissions by 2050. Now the company has introduced a biodiversity initiative that aggregates environmental data from around the world and puts it to work in a Planetary Computer.

“We will combine this with new work to enable partners and customers to use the resulting output to enhance environmental decision-making in their organizational activities,” Microsoft president Brad Smith said this week. “We’ll also use it to speak out on ecosystem-related public policy issues and take responsibility for Microsoft’s own land footprint.”

The company says it operates on a relatively small footprint of 11,000 acres of land globally. By 2025, Microsoft aims to protect more land than it uses through strategies including land acquisition, conservation easement, national park creation, and community or indigenous-led conservation.

On a broader scale, Smith said that the Planetary Computer would offer the following insights for businesses, conservation organizations, and scientists:

  • Forests: Satellite imagery, machine learning tools, and user-contributed data about forest boundaries so forest managers would have an integrated view of forest health.
  • Water: Satellite data, local measurements of streams and groundwater, and predictive algorithms for land planners and farmers to make decisions about water resources.
  • Wildlife Conservation: Combining information about terrain types and ecosystems with data about where species live so that wildlife biologists can benefit from each other’s data.
  • Climate Change: Combining satellite imagery about ecosystems with artificial intelligence to provide up-to-date information about ecosystems as well as a platform for leveraging predictive models to estimate global carbon stocks and inform decisions about land use.

Building such a complex platform requires collaboration. Smith said that Microsoft already has a partnership with the geographical information system software company Esri. On the ground, Microsoft is working with organizations like Wildlife Protection Solutions and Peace Parks.

“The clock is ticking on our ability to measure and manage the planet’s natural resources,” Smith said.

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