Measuring Development: Energy & Environment

I spoke yesterday at the CEGA-DIME* co-sponsored event: Measuring Development: Energy & Environment.  This was a terrific day of interesting talks, thoughtful conversations and great networking.

This workshop brought together engineers, social scientists, donors, and practitioners to discuss the use of novel measurement tools--including sensors, sensor networks, microsatellite imaging, and other remote sensing technologies--in energy and environment research. 

I presented an "ignite" talk on some of our mapping work and talked about the idea of "Spatial Data Science". There were a number of highlights. Matt Hancher from Google gave a great overview of Google Earth Engine and asked: "What if the micro-satellite imagery revolution works. What will you do with the data?” Great and timely question. Big Spatial Data workshop to the rescue! We heard from people at the Energy Institute at Haas who are looking at smart sensors, iButtons and billing networks to understand energy usage around the world; Ronald Cohen from the Climate Readiness Institute spoke; there was tons of discussion about low earth orbit micro-satellites from Skybox and the Spire company (they monitor AIS beacons on ships yet they also can still find them as they move back and forth through fishing zones and turn off their beacons); there was a great idea from Tony Vodacek from RIT on the need to develop “a remote sensing playbook”: What are the sensors, resolutions, bands that are needed for a particular task?. David Lobell from Stanford highlighted some of his great work in remote sensing of crop yields; and Sol Hsiang from the Goldman School outlined his fascinating work on natural disasters, economies and violence.

Background: Technologies for measuring the adoption and impact of development interventions have seen substantial innovation over the past several years—examples include the use of microsatellite data for mapping weather patterns and agricultural yields, sensors for tracking behavior change, smart meters for recording real-time energy use, continuous emissions monitoring systems for measuring particulate matter, and platforms for smartphone- and tablet-based survey data collection. At the same time, network protocols for data management, visualization, and analysis have drastically improved.

*CEGA =UC Berkeley's Center for Effective Global Action; DIME = World Bank's Development Impact Evaluation Initiative