Environmental information tools are in high demand but not always available or accessible. This is due in part to a wide dispersion of potentially useful material and a lack of information on how to actually apply available tools at an acceptable cost.
SWITCH-ON, which began in November 2013, is promoting the use of open data tools to support sustainable water use. Open data is the idea that certain information should be freely available to everyone without restrictions.
By exploiting the untapped potential of open data, the project team believes it is possible to improve water information provision, leading to more efficient environmental services and better handling of environmental problems, including those induced by climate and environmental change.
“This portal will be the first one-stop shop where you can find different kinds of water-information and users in one place,” explains project coordinator Berit Arheimer, head of hydrological research at the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI). “It will lead to more efficient water management tools, which can be used to create jobs that contribute towards a more sustainable and safe society.”
The innovation will also help to foster new business opportunities and growth by facilitating the development of new products and services based on the principles of information sharing. SMEs and service providers are expected to be able to access new markets, increase their competences and achieve more efficient production as a result of collaborating within SWITCH-ON.
“We are currently developing the portal at www.water-switch-on.eu,” says Arheimer. “This will contain 14 new products to aid operational water management, all based on open data. We have had stakeholder workshops to get feedback on the products so far, and to judge market potential.” To ensure successful implementation, each product involves a detailed business plan and close cooperation with appointed end-users.
The virtual water-science laboratory is one tool currently under development. Dedicated software and modelling tools will enable scientists to contrast water-related processes in different environments, and help them understand complex processes in a more holistic way.
“The first scientific journal paper on using the Virtual Lab is currently under revision, while six new scientific experiments are now under way,” adds Arheimer. Potential end-users include environmental consultancies, agriculture, hydropower companies, insurance companies and governmental authorities.
The portal will also run an open virtual product market, with products and services for water managers. A virtual meeting place where visitors can have a dialogue on product development and marketing is also being constructed. “We want to build bridges between policy-makers, water managers, product developers and researchers with this one-stop shop,” explains Arheimer.
While focused on water, it is hoped that the project will inspire the sharing of environmental and societal knowledge in other domains, by demonstrating that openness and collaboration can lead to innovation. The latest information and presentation technologies, such as web-based visualisation tools and mobile phone apps, will be used to disseminate the project’s findings to end-users in a quick and efficient manner.SWITCH-ON also contributes to the intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO), which will act as an international platform to leverage the project’s results and amplify its impact on a global scale