Shoshanna Budzianowski, Partner Group Program Manager, Business Platform Group, Microsoft Corporation
Eye on Earth: Microsoft Continues Investment in Network
THE EYE ON EARTH (EOE) NETWORK has garnered a great deal of praise
for providing European environmental data openly and transparently,
including widespread kudos for a new platform that was launched at the
Rio+20 meeting this year. EOE started out as a joint project of the
European Environment Agency (EEA) and Microsoft, and Esri recently
joined the effort. Special correspondent Matteo Luccio spoke with
Shoshanna Budzianowski, Partner Group Program Manager, Business Platform
Group, Microsoft Corporation, who heads up the EOE project, about the
ongoing development, the evolution to a cloud-based platform running on
Microsoft’s Azure platform, and the addition of Esri’s ArcGIS Online.
LUCCIO What do you do at Microsoft? How did you get involved with the Eye on Earth Network?
do strategy and partner development for the Information Services team
in the Data Platform Group at Microsoft. I also run an incubation team
and an incubation called SQL Azure Labs. I do development, I scale out
software, and I promote SQL Azure and Windows Azure.
become an advocate not only for Microsoft technology but also for
creating sustainable environmental solutions. I am neither a scientist
nor an advocate of green solutions; I am a technologist. When I look at
environmental issues, a lot of the problem is to figure out how to
baseline what we have now and let the world share it, so that we can
create science that measures against that baseline. With the EOE Network
we’ve made it possible not only to create that baseline but also to
share it with every citizen in the world in virtually every language. I
look at this as a science problem and an engineering problem.
LUCCIO How did the project start?
started out as a joint project of the European Environment Agency (EEA)
and Microsoft. Two individuals formulated the idea: Professor
Jacqueline McGlade, Executive Director of the EEA, and Ludo De Bock,
Senior Director for the European Union and NATO for Microsoft
Corporation. Ludo, who works out of Belgium, is very environmentally
conscious and wanted to help create a solution, with the EEA, that could
provide information to European citizens about their environment. When
this solution was first developed, in 2007, there was no other solution
like this. There was pent-up demand for information about the
environment from European Union citizens, but no way of conveying that
We first developed EOE at Microsoft and released it
in May 2008, with WaterWatch. It takes data from 22,000 monitoring
stations across Europe and publishes them in the application, so that
citizens can see the water quality and then provide their own assessment
of the water quality. That was wildly successful, to the point that we
at Microsoft decided to continue to support the solution. The next year,
we added AirWatch to the solution, which was released in November 2009.
That takes data from more than 1,000 air quality monitoring stations
across Europe and makes it available to citizens as well.
LUCCIO Who funds the project?
EEA has some funding for developing the solution. The majority of the
funding, including for the last version, has come from Microsoft, which
has continued to invest in it.
LUCCIO How did EOE develop into the EOE Network? What was your role?
am part of the product development team at Microsoft that produces our
cloud database product, called SQL Azure, and our database products,
such as SQL Server. We have a very long history of creating
enterprise-scale, highly complex database systems. My team got involved
because we ran a bunch of incubation projects for new cloud services and
we decided to take on this project as a prototype for what we thought
would be a cloud application.
We decided that, if we want
everyone to be able to participate in this work, we have to drive the
participation cost down to practically zero and make sure that the
platform will scale. So, instead of creating a custom solution, we now
have in place EOE Network, which allows virtually anyone in the world to
create environmental information solutions and share them for free. So,
we switched from creating a custom solution to creating a platform.
LUCCIO What was Esri’s role?
team and I developed the EOE Network with the help of Esri. When we
were trying to figure out how to create the scaled-out platform, I was
already working with Esri and some other partnership-style solutions for
publishing environmental information. I was fully educated and aware of
ArcGIS Online, which is a complete cloud-based solution based on
Windows Azure. So, I invited Esri into this engagement with Microsoft
and the EEA.
It’s been just a boon for the solution, because we
took the custom map solutions and decided that we could host them on
ArcGIS Online. Also, because of the functionality and capability of
ArcGIS Online, we are now able to allow people to create free map
applications and then have them published into the EOE Network.
recently re-designed EOE Network with Microsoft SharePoint. We did that
because SharePoint, which most people think of as a document management
system, can also be used to create Web-facing applications, with a
whole content management system behind it. So now, instead of being a
custom solution, the EOE Network uses SharePoint and ArcGIS, all hosted
on Windows Azure and SQL Azure. It means that non-technical audiences
can now use this platform without having to do custom development for
LUCCIO Who will provide the content? How will you handle quality control and edits?
expect governments, the scientific community, certified citizen
scientists, industry, NGOs, and even commercial organizations and
independent software vendors to provide data to the system. The EEA
administers the Network. Anyone can submit a map-based solution for
publication, but they will be published only once they are certified by
the EEA, which takes quality control responsibility for the maps that
are published on its site. For the information that goes up there, it
tends to work with trusted organizations, such as NASA, and trusted
We’ve been very careful to ensure that we
understand who owns the data and where it comes from. The crowdsourced
data that is part of the solution is always rendered separately, so that
you know when it comes from the crowd and you know when it is published
by the scientific community. If you go up to any of the air, water, or
noise watches, you find ratings from monitoring stations and separate
ratings submitted by citizens that may have different opinions on the
subject. We’ve been very careful about making sure that there is a
distinction between those two different data types.
crowdsourced data might become buried in environmental data. However, it
has to be statistically significant and you need to have a very active
citizen scientist community around it. Now, there are some citizen
scientist groups and scientists — it could even be school teachers
around the world — who can be certified by the EEA to submit solutions
to this site. So far, the solutions that I’ve seen that have been
submitted to the site are only from scientific organizations. There’s a
role for everyone on the site, but there is also a role for making sure
that you understand who owns the data and where it comes from.
Note: This interview was conducted by Matt Ball, and originally
appeared in Sensors & Systems, where he is editor. A longer version
can be accessed online here.