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When you think about technology, chances are saving the environment is not a direct connection. They seem to exist separately from each other, or even act as an antidote to the other. Often, technology is a reflection of human society’s desire to shape the world around us. But at Microsoft, we see the positive impact that technology has had in helping empower people to achieve more and even create a better natural world.

Here are a few examples of Microsoft projects and partners doing exactly that.

Smart Agriculture

Biotech is a fascinating discipline where technology is actively making a difference in humanity’s impact on the environment. Biotech crops are capable of improving harvests while at the same time conserving water, soil, and overall quality of our environment.

In one case study, Microsoft has taken strides to help farms better monitor pH levels in water and nutrient streams for increased plant health and higher overall yield. Costa Farms, a family owned group of companies based out of Miami, is using an Azure’s IoT system to increase efficiencies and profitability. The solution uses Microsoft partner Adafruit’s Feather M0 Wifi and pHSensor, along with Microsoft Azure and IoT Hub, Stream Analytics, Event Hub, Azure Functions and SQL Azure to monitor pH sensor devices throughout the hydro water systems, testing for correct pH levels in real-time.

Agricultural automation and revolutionary farming technologies such as this are boosting the efficiency of modern farming, reducing waste, and minimizing the negative impact on the environment.

Big Data Conservation

Microsoft and many of its partners understand that data is essential for monitoring and managing the earth’s resources. In a recent blog on green tech predictions for 2017, Rob Bernard, Chief Environmental Strategist at Microsoft, stated “There is much we do not understand about the planet, but we see an increasing number of companies and investments flowing toward developing tools and platforms that enable better mapping and understanding of earth’s carbon storage and airborne gasses, and ecosystems and the associated value they provide.” Data can be applied proactively to create actionable responses to issues of conservation and biodiversity management.

Microsoft Partner HP is doing some impressive work with Conservation International using new technologies to learn about the changing environment in tropical forests and other ecosystems around the world through their Tropical Ecology Assessment and Monitoring (TEAM) Network. They are measuring wildlife populations and biodiversity in remote areas through near real-time data collection of climate sensors and camera traps related to species, vegetation, precipitation, temperature, carbon stocks, humidity, solar radiation, and more. The goal is to use the best science and technology to collect the data and unbiased information to help decision makers act in the best interest of the environment.

Intelligent Infrastructure

We have previously shared a number of stories of how smart buildings and more efficient energy use is made possible through technology and the efforts of our partners. One case study that stands out is Microsoft Partner Accenture’s work with the City of Seattle to create a local Smart Building program that aims to reduce downtown power usage by up to 25%. The solution used Azure and SQL Server 2012 to apply predictive analytics to existing building management systems and optimize equipment for energy reduction.

The Smart Building solution was deployed in five buildings, a medical research facility, major office building, industrial facility, and a hotel, and was projected to generate savings of 10-25% in terms of energy and maintenance expenditures. The use of Microsoft cloud-based software to gather real-time and actionable insights from existing building data was considered a game changer for building owners and utilities alike. Microsoft’s CityNext program is continuing to empower cities to digitally transform in ways that optimize city operations, and accelerate the kind of innovation that will reduce the environmental impact of urban areas at scale.

What opportunities do you see to use the new wave of cloud technologies to make a positive impact on the environment? Share your thoughts in the comments below!