European Environment Agency and Microsoft Eye on Earth Observatory Bring European Beach Quality Into Sharp Focus

L-R: Mark Harris (Current British Champion), Ben Skinner (Current No 2. Longboard rider in the world), Jack Butler (Current British Junior Champion), and Alan Stokes (Former British Champion) get the latest info from Water Watch on MSN. New Eye on Earth online environmental observatory allows Europeans to understand the quality of the water they swim in and provides the power to call for change.

BRUSSELS, Belgium (RUSHPRNEWS)- 31 July 2008 – Microsoft Corp and the European Environment Agency (EEA) today announced the launch of the pioneering Eye on Earth online environmental observatory with the first of its resources, Water Watch. Eye on Earth is part of a five-year collaboration between the EEA and Microsoft that will ultimately gather together critical information, including European water soil, air and ozone indicators, into one place. From today, Eye on Earth allows governments, policymakers and individuals to compare the cleanliness of bathing water from sites across 27 European countries, giving people the power to choose where they swim and to influence their environment.

Bathing water cleanliness can be a major public health issue, with untreated sewerage and chemicals presenting a variety of risks ranging from respiratory infections to stomach complaints and even serious diseases such as dysentery, hepatitis and encephalitis. Until now, people in Europe have had no simple way of understanding the cleanliness of the water they swim in, nor the ability to report on and change the state of the beaches they visit.

“As environmental problems become more evident and affect the lives of ordinary individuals, it is vitally important that we can access relevant and timely information on the impact of environmental change,” said Jacqueline McGlade, executive director of the EEA. “With Eye on Earth, the EEA and Microsoft plan to bring complex strands of information together into a single, simple-to-use and easy-to-understand application – so, as more data and user findings are posted on the portal, we can see how climate change affects the way we live and how the way we live affects the environment.”

Using Microsoft’s Virtual Earth mapping technology, Eye on Earth provides a bird’s-eye view of the beach users plan to visit, while Microsoft SQL Server 2008’s data management and geospatial capabilities provide information that help them to understand the cleanliness of the water they or their families plan to swim in. Gadgets in Windows Vista ensure that this information is always quickly and easily available from any internet-enabled PC. Microsoft is also making Eye on Earth available to over 100 million users of the MSN online media network through specially localised channels in Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and the UK.

“Eye on Earth is the first part of a pioneering collaboration between Microsoft and the EEA and has huge implications, both for the people and the environment of Europe,” said Jan Muehlfeit, chairman of Microsoft Europe. “Water Watch combines Microsoft’s technical experience with European political priorities, creating a new tool which will help to preserve the environment and to increase European health and safety. We look forward to growing this project and collaborating on many more important European initiatives, using the power of software to tackle important challenges we face today, including pollution and climate change.”

Eye on Earth retrieves data from 21,000 monitoring points across Europe, presenting recent water quality ratings for bathing sites in 27 countries, and for some beaches, historical ratings for up to the past 18 years. Countries including Greece, Italy, Malta, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Portugal and Slovakia will also display the latest 2008 data, with more countries expected to update information in the near future. A traffic-light-style evaluation of water quality based on traditional monitoring methods is supported by similar ratings reflecting the experiences of people who have visited the beach. Combining these streams of information provides accurate and up-to-date information on bathing water quality across Europe, and makes it available to anyone who has access to the internet.

“Eye on Earth delivers the kinds of information that the public can really understand,” said Professor Geoffrey Lipman, spokesperson, UN World Tourism Organization. “Using the application, people can now find out what is happening on the beach near them or the one they plan to visit on holiday. Water Watch demonstrates how technology can develop our understanding of the world around us and let us make informed choices on the kind of environment we want to live in or visit.”

“Eye on Earth is a great example of how technology has the power to help governments, business and individuals understand what is happening to our environment,” said Rob Bernard, chief environmental strategist at Microsoft. “By combining environmental data with mapping technologies, it is possible for people to see where changes are happening. Eye on Earth provides people with information which has historically been difficult to find. With this new application, people will be more informed and be able to take appropriate actions to help ensure a cleaner environment.”

“Poor-quality bathing water is a real risk to everyone’s health and can prevent us from enjoying our seas and rivers,” said Ben Skinner, International Longboard champion and member of the British Surfing Association team. “For the first time, Eye on Earth’s Water Watch not only gives us the ability to know what we are going to find when we get into the water, but also provides us with the information we need to demand urgent action from governments, businesses and individuals. The partnership between the EEA and Microsoft is giving us the resources to force change and protect our natural environment.”

Water Watch is accessible from http://www.eyeonearth.eu, from http://www.eea.europa.eu and from MSN. More information on Microsoft’s commitment to the environment can be found at http://www.microsoft.com/environment.

About the European Environment Agency
The European Environment Agency is the EU body dedicated to providing sound, independent information on the environment. The agency aims to achieve significant and measurable improvements in Europe’s environment through the provision of timely, targeted, relevant and reliable information to policy-makers and the public. To find out more about the EEA, visit: http://www.eea.europa.eu.

About Microsoft
Founded in 1975, Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realise their full potential.

About Microsoft EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa)
Microsoft has operated in EMEA since 1982. In the region Microsoft employs more than 16,000 people in over 64 subsidiaries, delivering products and services in more than 139 countries and territories.

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PR Contacts

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Microsoft EMEA Response Centre
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