Case Study Microsoft Azure enables citizens to participate in EEA’s revolutionary environmental initiatives
Established in 1990, and based in Copenhagen, the European Environment Agency (EEA)
collects environmental data across 32 European countries, which can be used to develop
and implement environmental policy and is a crucial resource for almost 600 million
citizens across the continent. The EEA not only looks at environmental statistics
and trends, it also collects feedback from individuals, encouraging them to gather
more environmental data themselves.
EEA was keen to use cutting-edge technology to make key information about water
and air quality across Europe available to citizens, while giving them the tools
to develop a more effective response to climate change. It was in 2009, that the
EEA launched a pioneering application to make its environmental observatory accessible.
Eye On Earth, the outcome of a long collaboration with Microsoft, was launched.
The two-way communication platform gathers critical information from a variety of
sources in one place, and allows citizens to play a more active role in the exchange
of information through EEA’s dynamic and user-friendly Web site.
Eye On Earth is supported by the Cloud services operating system Windows Azure,
which works seamlessly with the existing infrastructure, and helps developers quickly
deploy new features. The service-based architecture and Cloud operating system provide
the same level of reliability as an enterprise data center, but offers greater agility,
ensuring it can very quickly scale to meet rapid growth in data and traffic. This
makes Windows Azure the ideal technology for the Eye On Earth applications. According
to EEA sources, the organization chose Windows Azure because it offers it more flexibility
than any of the other technical solutions available, and enabled it to respond to
large scale peaks in demand.
Additionally, Bing Maps for Enterprises provides high-resolution satellite images
and aerial photography across Europe and beyond, and since it is customizable, the
agency can incorporate its environmental data into the mapping technology with ease.
Data is fed into Microsoft SQL Azure—a Cloud-based database service built on Microsoft
SQL Server data management software—every hour. The powerful database supports rapid
retrieval of information, making it possible for Eye On Earth to process and deliver
data in real time.
With Eye On Earth, the EEA brings the most advanced environmental modelling to citizens
across Europe, and encourages them to participate. It provides a feature-rich environment
to increase citizen involvement. In the case of Eye On Earth, when a location is
entered on the screen, the application recognizes not just any city or town within
the 32 countries, but also far more specific map locations, such as streets and
By providing the public with such local and timely information, the EEA believes
that it will help citizens make decisions that can improve their lives. The services-based model and Cloud operating system are also helping EEA minimise infrastructure overheads.
And, by taking advantage of Microsoft data centres to house data from the EEA in
the Cloud, Windows Azure also reduces the need for investment in hardware and computers
that would otherwise remain idle. Cloud computing ensures that EEA is more adaptable.
This is a welcome departure from the often restrictive server framework and the
costs and resources associated with keeping it running seven days a week. Owing
to Windows Azure, EEA can be more flexible regarding the number of users.