AWS makes climate data collection available as part of White House initiative

Amazon's involvement stems from its ongoing commitment to the White House's Climate Data Initiative.


Amazon Web Services is known for its ever-growing list of high-profile paying customers in tech, retail, finance and beyond. But the cloud service provider is going for more of a do-gooder angle with its latest hosting scheme.

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AWS Public Data Sets, a centralized library of publicly-available data that can be integrated into AWS cloud-based apps, will be populated with approximately 85,000 pieces of data from Landsat, a joint initiative between the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and NASA.

Touted to be the world's longest continually-updated repository of Earth imagery and data collected from space, Landsat data is often used by both public and private sector organizations on projects ranging from agriculture and forestry to urban planning and disaster relief.

Among the companies already plugging into the data with open source tools and analytics are geographic mapping software provider Esri, technical computing software maker MathWorks, data visualization and mapping specialist Development Seed, among others.

Steve Eddins, a software development manager in image processing areas at MathWorks, explained in a blog post on Thursday how the free download Matlab can be utilized to visualize and take action on the metadata.

"Landsat 8 is an incredible resource for global change research and has been used in a diverse array of scientific endeavors including the monitoring of deforestation, population growth, and glacier recession," Eddins wrote. "The tool offers a great way for MATLAB users to build on the foundation of AWS support for Landsat 8 imagery. It can also be run on an EC2 instance, which avoids the download time and allows you to process many images in a shorter amount of time."

Amazon's involvement stems from its ongoing commitment to the White House's Climate Data Initiative.

AWS has made similar strides in the past. In 2012, the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) made the complete 1000 Genomes Project -- the largest collection of human genetics data -- available as a public data set.

It's been a busy day for the cloud giant.

Earlier on Thursday, the Seattle-headquartered corporation followed up on promised upgrades for Amazon Elastic Block Store (EBS) that were first introduced amid its annual developer summit re:Invent last November.

In more murky waters, speculation is sprouting following comments from the ACLU last week, decrying Amazon for being the only U.S. Internet company in the Fortune 500 that has not yet released a transparency report about data demands from federal government and law enforcement agencies.

Amazon is under no legal obligation to report its numbers, but it has been ranked as one of the lowest companies in the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) annual privacy reports over the last four years.

Screenshot via MathWorks/Matlab