Data and Collaboration at the Heart of Ocean Health

Published on May 4, 2021

Climate change is taking a heavy toll on ocean health. Collaboration across industries, sectors, governments, and professions is a must. This begs the question, what are the challenges to accelerating action to mitigate climate change in the oceans? What role can AI play in this?

I recently moderated a panel Using Technology to Monitor and Protect Oceans and Coastal Communities for AI LA’s Earth Summit which brought together a diverse range of voices to discuss the future of sustainability and ways in which AI can be used to make an impact.

The panel included a range of ocean technology experts including Dr. Ersin Uzun, General Manager and Vice President at Xerox PARC. Jenny Krusoe, Founding Executive Director at AltaSea. Yanis Souami, Founder and CEO of Sinay, and Paul Holthus, Founding President and CEO of the World Ocean Council.

The Journey to Ocean Health Starts with Clean Data

The problems in the ocean are vast and the time to act is now, thankfully there are many working on solutions. Dr. Ersin Uzun from PARC noted that “History tells us that government interests which include defense and the security and health of citizens can really accelerate innovation and bring new technologies to bear.”

Ersin Uzin, GM PARC

He continued, AI is here today and improving every day, for certain narrow applications we have the data to do basic reasoning, but to really understand the complex interaction of different activities and how they correlate with each other, we simply need high resolution and better data. PARC’s collaboration with DARPA is taking steps towards obtaining higher resolution. The program deploys low-cost drifters that collect temperature, humidity, air pressure, CO2 level, ship emissions, as well as algae and plankton population. Having a clear image of what is taking place in the ocean gives stakeholders across the board an opportunity to develop practices, policies, and initiatives that keep ocean health at the forefront.

Sinay, founded by Yanis Souami, has built a platform that leverages data to deliver actionable insights to maritime clients such as ports, shipping companies and the French Navy, helping these organizations to be more sustainable, and operationally efficient through the use of data and artificial intelligence.

As a nonprofit dedicated to renovating the Port of Los Angeles, AltaSea has a charter to advance the emerging blue economy through business innovation and job creation.

Jenny Krusoe, Founding Executive Director, AltaSea

Krusoe spoke about the range of issues ports such as Los Angeles face, such as weather and other delays that cause congestion with ships arriving at different times and a need to use technology to help optimize ship entry and docking.  Vessel routes, ship arrival times, and identifying where the human activities are impacting wildlife are just some of the instances where data has been leveraged to protect the ocean.

In spite of the vast amounts of data about the ocean from tides to temperature, to salinity to depths, the consensus among the experts was that we still need more data to be able to properly tackle the problems the ocean and coastal communities face.

The ocean covers 70% of the Earth’s surface, yet so much of it still remains unexplored. It makes complete sense then, that in order to better protect coastal communities and ecosystems, we must first have an understanding of how they function, and more data at the foundation of getting to that understanding.

Integrated Networks and Collaboration

“This is an all-hand-on-deck moment and the collaboration that needs to take place is vast,” emphasized Krusoe. Access to more clean data can accelerate our collective approach. However, data is only one piece of the puzzle.

Holthus, founder of the World Ocean Council is committed to creating an integrated network and fostering collaboration across the maritime sectors.

We’ve got 80,000 to 90,000 merchant ships out there, there’s 1.2 million kilometers of submarine cable, there’s three to four million fishing boats, there’s tens of thousands of platforms for offshore energy of different sites and aquaculture and other use

Paul Holthus, Founder World Ocean Council

Getting all of these major players together and collaborating together is no small feat. It requires representation from the shipping industry, cruise lines, governments, marine scientists, and more to come together in one central network as a necessary function to be able to take on these problems effectively.

I really believe that products must have deep connectivity with each other, for example to be able to connect any type of IoT sensors to each other and other technologies which provide indicators or specific artificial intelligence on a topic. It’s a common problem and bringing technologists together to share and collaborate will enable us to better strategize to overcome the problems”

Yanis Souami, CEO Sinay

An integrated network is vital. While different stakeholders may collect data, simply storing data in walled silos doesn’t do much good. What’s more, building technologies without interoperability that is difficult to integrate with other tech only slows down collaboration. For the sake of ocean health and regeneration, integration across platforms, services, and other technologies must be a priority.

Making integrated networks a priority is also about making a cultural shift. “We have to embrace this,” Krusoe pointed out. “We have to learn a new culture of collaboration and work together to meet these goals that are so important to all of us, no matter what. It’s a lot of listening and then figuring out how people can speak the same language.”

Earth Summit by AI LA was an amazing gathering of movement builders, industry leaders, and people working tirelessly to take care of our planet. While the role of technology is integral to monitoring and protecting our oceans and coastal communities, the key lesson is that we must also come together to support integrated platforms that enable data sharing and collaboration.

The recorded panel session can be found here.

Sandra Ponce de Leon is a Columnist at Grit Daily. She is a veteran start-up executive who has launched and supported companies through several successful exits. She has a broad marketing background that crosses consumer and business markets. As a tech passionista, she has a focus on blue-tech and also covers topics such as blockchain,  SaaS, health-tech, mobile, iOT and AI. She is a startup adviser and outsourced CMO that leads corporate marketing activities to fuel growth. Sandra's long history in Silicon Valley has enabled her to forge friendships and business relationships with the industry's top tech leaders and influencers which inform much of her extensive body of work including the Popping the Bubbl podcast, and contributing to #LatinaGeeks where she actively writes about emerging tech trends.

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