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Linking Wealth, Technology and Abundance: How the TARA Alliance Gives Environmental Data One Voice

Source: Adlai Partners

Data is driving positive change in the world today. It’s healing patients with better outcomes. It’s detecting methane leaks and mitigating pollution. It’s even finding homes for stray pets and determining the best conditions for humans to inhabit Mars.

Despite all of the good we’re already achieving with data, there is one high hurdle standing in the way of doing even more: linking realms.

It’s easy for us now to collect data with low-cost sensors. NASA does it and so do nano-satellite operators collecting methane data in low orbit. Chevron does it. Every university on the planet does it. Individual farmers, fisherman and ranchers collect it. It’s also easier than ever for us to store data.

But we are still missing the point. We continue to work in silos and lack a good way for people to share data with each other in order to collaborate. This prevents us from exponentially increasing the effects of any individual’s efforts.

If you’re someone who wants to leverage data to keep making the world a better place, this is a big problem. Without being able to link data realms (in other words, tap into all of the data that we collect in one place and study it within the same context), we lack the ability to interpret data efficiently or effectively. As a result, we face diminishing returns on the ever-increasing volumes of data that we collect.

It’s time to solve that problem by developing a new data standard, regulated by a community of stakeholders — researchers, NGOs, governments and corporations. Just as Bluetooth did for communication devices, this will help speed innovation across a range of industries — from agriculture to the energy industry, to pharmaceuticals and beyond.

This is precisely what the newly created TARA Alliance aims to do.

The Problem of Data Sharing

There are several reasons why companies don’t collaborate today around the data that they collect.

One is that the commercial incentives aren’t high enough and are fraught with uncertainty. There is no clear mechanism that will ensure reciprocity, or rewards for sharing data.

Then, in cases where organizations do decide to share data — as those involved in the open data movement, research institutes, impact companies and NGOs do — they lack universal standards for linking the data together. They end up comparing apples with oranges, with every sensor, data set and input system based on a different language and using different hardware or software.

Converting gallons to liters is just the tip of the iceberg. If Apple changes the iPhone charger input every few years, imagine what kind of mess exists in the scientific instruments industry.

Meanwhile, ensuring the authenticity of data has proven difficult. It’s hard to collaborate around shared data if there is no standard way for all collaborators to know that the data that has been shared with them is accurate and of the quality that they were promised.

The TARA Alliance’s Open Data Collaboration Vision

The TARA Alliance aims to make it easy for one group of researchers to use data that is collected and shared by other researchers, thereby magnifying the amount of knowledge that can be created with the help of the data.

The alliance, which builds hardware, software and database protocols, will allow individual researchers, corporations, NGOs and policymakers to see beyond their immediate realms and collaborate with one another, even if they have never met. It will bring critical new context to data analytics and enable everyone — from forest ecologists to Mars architects, to entomologists and even everyday gardeners — to contribute all of their data to the same plane and gain insights that would otherwise remain elusive.

In this way, the TARA Alliance will become the antidote to the tendency today: where wealth and power concentrate in the hands of the small subset of organizations that currently have the power to deploy big data and AI. With the TARA Alliance, the power of data harvesting and analysis is restored to everyone and distributed in a decentralized fashion, no matter the size of your operations or budget.

The TARA Alliance grants access to this global environmental data stored on a distributed database. Furthermore, to facilitate the trust and accuracy of data entering into the data co-op and incentivize the contribution of data, a blockchain-based ledger is critical. The creation of a dynamic reputation system of data producers and an immutable database allows data contributors and groups seeking insights to trust each other. This is the technology that allows the dissemination and decentralization of data and AI-driven insights. The TARA Alliance will afford the smallest research group access to more information and insights than traditional, centralized multinational monopolies of data could ever accumulate.

Implementing the Vision

The founders of the TARA Alliance adhere to the belief that with the right partners, technology and innovative thinking, answers to these questions are possible.

How will the TARA Alliance do this? Through a few key initiatives:

  • The establishment of a token-curated registry (TCR), which regulates membership in the alliance while also incentivizing data contributions. Individuals and groups listed on the TARA Alliance TCR will have access to the alliance’s data, as well as to interpretive tools for studying it. Because the TCR is decentralized, no single party will control who can join it. This approach not only ensures that membership in the TARA Alliance is based on merit, but also that organizations have an incentive to share data, because doing so will allow them to join the TCR and access the data of others.
  • Building a universal data standard that can be used by all researchers. Here again, decentralization is key to making this task feasible. Establishing a universal data standard and getting everyone to follow it has been nearly impossible to date because such efforts have been centralized. The TARA Alliance’s data standard is not created or owned by any single group. For that reason, it is poised to achieve universal adoption that centralized standards can’t match.
  • Building MICO, an open-hardware platform for data harvesting designed to be compatible with any analog or digital sensors and to interact natively with a blockchain.

As a decentralized group, the TARA Alliance is open to membership by anyone who shares its vision for understanding nature through data. But for now, the initiative is being led by Flux, which helps organizations collect environmental data from IoT sensors and turn it into actionable guidance. In addition to being the founding member of the TARA Alliance, Flux pioneered the data capsule concept behind the TARA Alliance and the incentive engine that rewards organizations for participation. Flux is also building MICO, which can harvest data in accordance with the standards set by the TARA Alliance.

And Flux is building tools called perception engines, which enable anyone — from corporations seeking to make business decisions to government agencies looking for policy insights, to individuals working on personal research projects and everyone in between — to leverage the power of machine learning and AI to transform data into value. TARA Alliance members will enjoy unique access to these tools.

Flux is working with organizations and institutions that are keen to help society do more good with all of the data that we now collect. We all want to break out of the silos to drive collaborative research in agriculture, oceanography, forestry and energy. Want to join us?

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