Planet OS: Aiming to Become the OS for Real-world Sensor Data

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By Phil Keys


Planet OS is the new name of MarinExplore and the company announced its change of name in June, 2014 to reflect its extended mission. That is, to help companies, organizations and researchers make sense of the entire world’s sensor data. The founder and CEO of Planet OS, Rainer Sternfeld, states “Sensor data will outgrow social media data in the next few years,” which gives an idea of the size of the challenge Planet OS is girding itself to take on.

Behind the Name Change

As we noted earlier, as Marinexplore, the company was working on a data platform designed to give both research organizations such as NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and MyOcean as well as commercial entities like oil and shipping companies a platform and tools to make it easy to interconnect and organize disparate data repositories residing throughout the world. With that solved, Marinexplore provided tools to visualize, fuse and distribute datasets in a single environment. With the ability to view the complete set of data available as one virtual entity, Planet OS can now give the world’s organizations and companies the ability to do unprecedented analytics and visualization of planetary environmental sensor data, making it truly actionable.

As Planet OS, the company’s mission is much the same; it just has been expanded to include not only oceanographic data but weather, climate, surface satellite, chemical and biological occurrences, plane traffic, partner activity data etc. Mr. Sternfeld notes that the company had been considering expanding beyond oceanographic data for some time but the decision to go ahead was spurred by a combination of customer requests and an investment in the company from Philips. ”Smart sensorsare being deployed everywhere and unmanned vehicles in the water, on land, air and space are becoming commonplace. Planet OS is on its way to organize and make sense of most earth data, private and public.” (Sternfeld).

As you would expect, the company chose the name Planet OS with deliberation. “Planet OS embodies the vision of the company, which is to be The Operating System for Planetary Data that holds a central place in organizations dealing with sensor data and takes care of all the tedious tasks people today have to do. We are like Linux, Windows or Mac OS for your planetary data” (Sternfeld).

Initial Focus on Oil and Gas Companies

As Planet OS, the company plans to continue its initial focus on providing data interoperability and task automation solutions for the oil and gas industry. It would seem that organizations with the scale and resources of the large oil and gas companies would already have this capability in house, but according to Mr. Sternfeld, this is not always the case. “The big problem for oil and gas companies is how they find the structured and unstructured data they collect in-house or through their partners.Throughout the world, it is held in different sites and often is specialized formats, available only for people on that site and for a specific software solution. This is a big problem.” (Sternfeld).

An important thing to note is that Planet OS never actually owns the data, that stays with the original owner who uses the Planet OS platform. “We allow our partners to free their specialists to focus on their core competencies instead of having to spend valuable time doing arbitrary IT tasks. Planet OS is the only cloud based platform specialized in end to end world wide data flow which can accomplish this for our partners,” (Sternfeld).

As a startup, the business benefits of focusing on a large and well-funded industry are obvious.  However, this is not the only reason for Planet OS to work with the oil and gas industry; there is a technical one as well. According to Mr. Sternfeld, the oil and gas companies are the ones who hold the greatest amounts of environmental data. “From a platform development viewpoint, with a platform which can handle the size of the data repositories held by oil and gas companies, we can also easily work with industries with smaller and narrower datasets such as agriculture.”

Planet OS

Even for industries which have comparatively smaller data sets, the amount of data they will be able to address is expected to grow quite quickly as the number of sensors continues to explode. One example of this trend is the commercialization of small size satellites laden with sensors, often referred to as nanosatellites. In July, 2014 a startup specializing in nanosatellites and data called Spire announced receiving an investment of $25 million. Regarding the growth of the nanosatellite market, Rainer notes, “Since 2010, the amount of satellites launched exceeds estimates by three times, reaching over 150 to date (July 2014). Most of these are at nanosatellite scale which makes it possible to deploy dozens of satellites in one launch. With a coverage like that, people will see our entire planet at a distance in near real-time. That has never been done before, and creates a whole new economy of people who can create applications to manage our life better. Planet OS will help companies that are users of nanosatellite data to include these dataflows with the rest of the devices and data sources they work with.”

As Marinexplore, the company not only worked with corporate customers, it also operated Marinexplore.org, a free and open platform where researchers and non-profit organizations can input and share oceanographic data and visualization with their colleagues. Even as Planet OS, Mr. Sternfeld maintains the company’s commitment to open data. It will continue operating Marinexplore.org in its current form, and will be looking into expanding the public datasets in the near-future.

Helping to Fulfill the Intertrust Vision

Intertrust’s motto is “Building Trust for a Connected World.” We are inspired by Planet OS’s vision to create a platform where the entire world’s environmental sensor data can be shared, visualized and analyzed by professionals throughout the world. We are excited not only by the business possibilities but also the potential societal benefits of having a data driven view of the world’s environment, whether that is the ocean, land or air. Still, while having this vision is inspirational, what we truly find impressive is Planet OS’s focus on the practical aspects of making this data available and useful. “When you work with diverse sensor data, you want it to be always available, accessible and usable like electricity. To get there you need to have the data be interoperable, organized and up to date,” (Sternfeld). We couldn’t agree more and are proud to be an investor in Planet OS.