Embracing the revolution

Technology and Innovation General Manager, Dr Barry Biggs, looks at the impact of the fast-moving world of “tech” on NIWA’s science.

Technology is evolving all around us and just keeping pace is daunting.

On a personal front, your cellphone is about to move to 5G and many of the apps that are likely to dominate your life in five years’ time aren’t even on the market.

Life is equally challenging for organisations. The business landscape is littered with the graves of companies that have failed to embrace new technology.

Over the past two decades, more than half the Fortune 500 companies have either been acquired, merged, or declared bankrupt as a result of digital disruption.

But technology also brings opportunity, and for every corporate failure there has been a profusion of innovative and often hugely successful companies with new techno-based DNA.

Emerging technologies have equally brought big changes for the world of science, particularly in our ability to significantly advance understanding of our environment and the processes that shape it. Data can now be collected on a much finer scale – both in time and space. This in turn provides significantly deeper insights into system structures and dynamics. New analytics, visualisation and virtual reality technologies also provide opportunities to abstract new information from that data and to present it more simply to the wider world.

NIWA works at the frontline of this world of developing technology and we are an eager early adopter. High-performance computing, remote sensing, real-time data collection, intelligent control systems, remotely operated vehicles, environmental isotope analysis – the list goes on. It is an exciting but challenging frontier. Not only do existing technologies continue to advance, but new ones appear – both at an accelerating rate.

In response, NIWA has developed a strategic agenda to drive technology uptake and innovation within the organisation, and with our collaborators. The action points include:

  • Increased capital investment in new technology
  • Virtual technology research centres spread across NIWA
  • Targeted skill transfer in digital technology, data analytics, and artificial intelligence
  • Expanding our remote sensing, environmental forecasting and high-performance computing networks
  • Bringing environmental data technologies and business together to improve performance, lower environmental footprint and increase resilience to environmental risks.

NIWA will continue to take bold decisions around the adoption of new technology because innovation will deliver the cutting-edge environmental science New Zealand needs in an ever-changing world.

This article forms part of Water & Atmosphere 23, read more stories from this series