Access and Feeds

Open Data: The Benefits of Openly Sharing Maritime Data

By Dick Weisinger

In many ways the earth’s oceans represent an unexplored frontier. They’ve managed to escape the same level of in-depth explorations that humans have made across the earth’s seven continents. But that is changing quickly.

The Ocean Conservatory wrote in their 2021 report on Ocean Data that “the blue economy, accounts for $373 billion of U.S. gross national product, and is powered by ocean uses that include shipping, fishing, tourism and offshore energy development. All of these sectors are both providers and users of ocean data used to inform business and operational decisions, placement of new infrastructure and sustainable resource management policies. The amount of data now collected from the deployment of new technologies and crowdsourcing is staggering, yet these data are underutilized because the systems of characterizing, managing and sharing data have not been standardized, modernized or updated to keep pace with the exponential growth in data while guaranteeing confidentiality and privacy.”

The amount of ocean data collected is growing exponentially, yet still falls short of what it could be. The amount of ocean data collected during 2015 to 2017 exceeded the total volume of ocean data collected in all previous years. Despite this, it is still limited. Shin Tani, chairman of the GEBCO Guiding Committee in Japan, said that “we know more about the topography of Mars than we do about the earth’s sea floor even though oceans have a much bigger direct impact on our everyday lives than the surface of Mars.”

Ocean data is unquestionably important. Tim Janssen, oceanographer and the CEO of Sofar Ocean, said that “whether it is exploration, transportation, conservation or competition — all these depend upon knowledge of the physical characteristics of the maritime domain.”

There are calls both to increase the collection of ocean data and to also provide ways to openly share it so that it can be productively used by both public and private enterprises. Tim Gallaudet, deputy administrator at the NOAA, wrote that “autonomy, artificial intelligence, edge computing and communication technologies have combined with a growing global awareness of the importance of the oceans to generate a surging tsunami of ocean data… With public-private partnerships, we can create connected oceans for a more sustainable future, ride the big wave of ocean data — and avoid an innovation wipeout.”

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