Bringing the Power of Smart Data on a Platform Ecosystem
Better Dealing with Natural Disasters
In the summer of 2018 in western Japan, record-breaking rainfalls led to a series of devastating floods and mudslides. Over 200 people died and thousands were left homeless. The flooding occurred so suddenly that, in many cases, people could only climb to their rooftops to escape the rising waters.
Once the waters receded, the question was asked: What can be done to help limit the damage to both human life and property? One solution was to use satellite data to better understand the causal chain which leads to such natural disasters – analyze the patterns of the past and build a model to better predict future disasters.
German-based tech giant SAP built a solution, which processes the massive amount of data by leveraging the spatial capabilities of SAP’s in-memory platform. “Our SAP teams built a neuronal network and trained it for 21 days with satellite data since the beginning of the recordings. Then we were able to predict landslides in Japan with nearly a 90 percent probability — 10 days in advance. This was a tipping point,” said Dr. Carsten Linz, Business Development Officer and Global Head at the SAP Center for Digital Leadership.
The decision to roll-out this solution in Japan, was made after having showcased it live to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and German Chancellor Angela Merkel during CeBIT 2017. (Photo)
Building a Spatial Platform & Ecosystem for Real-Time Solutions
It began with an overall examination of the issue and the problems that SAP’s technology was meant to solve: What if a business could take all kinds of geospatial information – regional boundaries, points of interest, road networks, earth observation data, drone images – and easily combine it with your organization’s processes and data? What if you could use it to predict outcomes and automate new processes? What if you could visualize it to reveal previously unseen relationships? What if you could do all of this without the need to invest in complex infrastructure and hire scores of data scientists and field experts?
In the first stage, in combination with the new generation of spatial platform for business applications, selected high-value micro services were launched like the “Earth Observation Analysis Service” in 2016 to improve the planning of smart cities as well as open up other space-related applications such as digital farming and gas pipeline management. In the same year, the partnership between SAP and the European Space Agency was launched at the Mobile World Congress to combine the power of the SAP platform with ESA’s accurate, timely, and easily accessible earth observation data, especially from the Copernicus programme. At SAP TechEd Las Vegas, the first SAP-ESA showcase together with the Munich RE was presented, demonstrating how the world’s largest reinsurance company can use data to predict and control the impact of potential wildfire damage claims.
“Our ambition was to bring innovative, space-related scenarios to the world by integrating different stakeholders and different complementors on the SAP Cloud Platform,” Linz said. “For this purpose, our development teams built a dedicated spatial engine into our SAP Cloud Platform that can bring together the analytical and the transactional world in real time.”
In the second stage, the full suite of SAP HANA spatial services was developed, which includes multiple geo-spatial microservices for industry-specific geo data modeling and calculations e.g. surface information of the planet, weather forecast information. This allows improved decisions based on native integration of business and spatial data extracted from e.g. satellite, drone and open data sources.
To realize even more advanced spatial business and societal scenarios on a cross-sector basis, it became evident that the true power lies in the digital ecosystem, which brings together space-related stakeholders including providers of space data, of space algorithms, and space software applications. This led to the founding of the World Space Alliance at the ILA Berlin in 2018 with the European Space Agency and SAP as founding members. This vision for an <Open Digital Ecosystem> by SAP’s Center for Digital Leadership was awarded as “Innovation Landmark” by the German President (Photo)
In the case of anticipating natural events, this meant leveraging the SAP HANA platform to analyse all the necessary data in real-time and offer timely insight with the help of artificial intelligence interpreting satellite data by applying deep learning algorithms. Going forward, Japanese government is able to predict the risk of landslides, hence optimize rescue planning and even take preventive measures both on government and local authoritiy-level. This also helps to optimally locate a first aid scamps so that they sit as close to the disaster area as possible without being in the line of danger itself. “It’s a case where you show the power of bringing together different data on a platform in an ecosystem,” said Linz.
Measures of Success
“We look for gravity of the platform. How many complementors do we have on the platform?” said Linz. “Secondly, we look at the onboarding time for complementors [with the aim of minimizing it] We also look at customer adoption rates. And revenue and societal impact, of course. That why I am passionate about the Japanese land slide case. It just fits perfectly SAP’s 47-year-old mission – make the world run better and improve people’s lives.”
Grounding in an Ecosystem Culture
An ecosystem involving different players has long been part of SAPs culture. Already early in the company history, SAP decided to let independent system integrators (SIs) deliver implementation and customization projects for SAP’s clients and still today SIs dominate the IT project business and deliver the bulk of SAP projects. With the open SAP Cloud Platform, SAP decided to take the partner approach to the next level and apply it to the developer ecosystem community. To build gravity around the SAP Cloud Platform, SAP launched various partner programs during the years.
The partnership with the European Space Agency has been particularly fruitful. Geospatial information is an increasingly important source of value creation. Geospatial data is key. The opportunity for deriving insights and creating new products and experiences are on the rise. Cloud computing, mobile devices and sensors, data analytics and artificial intelligence allow organizations to leverage geospatial data and services to build new capabilities. The European Union, having built an outstanding earth observation satellite system known as Copernicus, wanted to broaden the impact of their satellite information (which is offered free of charge) and open it up from only scientists to a much broader set of users. Partnering with SAP allows them to demonstrate that traditional earth observation can also have commercial applications, hence a return on European tax payers’ money.
“At first sight, a digital platform and ecosystem approach might sound counterintuitive”, Linz conceded.“The fundamental belief that ecosystems flourish, when you expose to others what you really can do best, could be quite a mindset shift for many organizations. Ultimately, you invite others to bring-in their strength and innovate on top of your platform, which let grow the entire ecosystem – always provided there are forms of individual and collective benefits.” There is a large community of people who develop algorithms, especially in research institutions and universities, but they are often not widely used or known. By productizing these spatial algorithms and making them available as cloud services, they can be conveniently consumed by start-ups, corporations, universities and research institutes.
An example where this ecosystem bears fruit is the digital transformation of millions of hectare of Palm tree fields. SAP works with one of the biggest palm oil producers in the world to create digital identity of each palm trees to check their health and improve transparency in palm oil production. Until now, palm oil producers have been managing these with the help of primitive methods. “The first value we created was that the customer knew how many palms they actually had,” Linz said. “With the help of satellite as well as drone information and meters and sensors, the platform can monitor the time-series of the information and alerts can go out in real time if significant variation is found.” Use of technology for palm tree is one example but same can be applied for improving farmers, dairy milk producers and livestock. The success of this project means that similar platforms can be used to optimize agricultural production, which is good news in a world constantly beset by food shortages and hunger.