information is not only generated in abundance in Europe, but is also to
a major extent available on the web. In this sense, it is easy to
access this information,' explains Professor Leo Wanner of the Catalan
Institute of Research and Advanced Studies and Natural Language
Processing Group at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain.
'However, the question of quality is unresolved for any user,' he
continues. 'Thus, if one website forecasts the temperature to reach 30
oC the next day in Barcelona, another one 28 oC and the third 32 oC, two
or all three of them must be wrong.'
But the accuracy of meteorological information on the web is not the
only issue. For people concerned about more than just the weather -
atmospheric dust, chemicals and CO2 emissions, for example, or the count
of different types of pollen that they may be allergic to - the
challenge is even greater.
'Environmental information is more difficult to access. Public
administrations might have access to it, in accordance with
environmental legislation, but for businesses and citizens it is often a
challenge to find the corresponding data for the geographical area of
their interest,' Prof. Wanner says.
In other words, most web-services follow a 'same information for
all' philosophy, offering all the information that may be relevant to
any user, but not one person in particular. And some offer information
relevant to only a default user, almost always a healthy citizen. In the
first case the user is expected to be able and willing to browse
through all the available information and decide which is relevant to
them, and, in the second case, a user with specific needs will often not
encounter the information that they require.
Supported by almost EUR 2.8 million in research funding from the
European Commission, a consortium of universities and research
institutes in five EU countries have risen to the challenge. Coordinated
by Prof. Wanner, the team has developed Europe's most advanced
intelligent personalised environmental and meteorological information
service aimed at the needs of citizens, companies and public
Developed over the course of three years in the 'Personalised
environmental service configuration and delivery orchestration'
(PESCADO) project, the web-based system is designed to provide
information specifically relevant to each individual user depending on
their profile, preferences and location.
Meaningful data at the click of a button
'The platform communicates with the users to obtain a clear idea of
their needs and to understand how it can support them in their decision
making; it searches for relevant high-quality meteorological and
environmental web sources, merging data from different sources; it
interprets the data in the context of the needs of the user; selects the
content that it considers important for the user; and generates a
textual and graphical bulletin for the user in the language of their
preference,' Prof. Wanner explains.
In effect, the PESCADO platform generates a personalised weather and
environmental report at the click of a button. To achieve this, the
researchers combined cutting-edge technologies in domain-dependent
search, uncertainty and confidence metrics, image content extraction
techniques, fuzzy reasoning, and multimodal and multilingual
information-generation techniques into a service-oriented architecture.
The backbone of the PESCADO system is a knowledge base that contains
all information necessary for intelligent decision support related to
environmental data, such as environmental background knowledge, data
extracted from environmental services on the web, and user profiles.
Individual tasks, such as extracting data, assessing its quality and
generating the bulletin for users, are carried out by one or more
'In each of the tasks we addressed, a number of challenges had to be
met,' the project coordinator explains. 'For instance, the extraction
of content from image material such as weather maps has been a major
challenge. The development of metrics for the assessment of the quality
of the given data, and extrapolation of air pollutant concentrations
measured at a specific spot into the surrounding area and taking into
account the morphology of the landscape was another. Reasoning over
environmental data and the needs of the user, as well as the development
of a fast, high-quality multilingual text generator, were also big
hurdles we had to overcome.'
In the case of environmental data in particular, there is also the issue of comprehension.
'For example, what does it mean that the ozone concentration reached
170 micrograms per cubic metre for me personally? Especially for people
with health problems or allergies who are sensitive to elevated air
pollution or elevated pollen concentrations, it is not clear how they
should interpret the concentrations they find on the web,' Prof. Wanner
With a clear user interface and personalised and localised output,
the PESCADO system is valuable not only for helping individual citizens
plan their daily activities, but also for public administrations looking
to keep pollution levels under control and companies trying to comply
with environmental legislation.
'European legislation demands that member states and regional
governments comprehensively inform the citizens about local
environmental conditions in terms people understand. PESCADO is an
instrument that could greatly contribute to the implementation of this
legislation,' Prof. Wanner points out.
The prototype system currently covers Finland and is available in the English, Finnish and Swedish languages.
Having elicited interest from different public administrations
across Europe, Prof. Wanner says the team's goal is now to seek further
funding to expand the area of geographical coverage, incorporate
additional languages and add more domains such as water-quality data and
PESCADO received research funding under the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
Link to project on CORDIS:
- FP7 on CORDIS
- PESCADO project factsheet on CORDIS
Link to project's website:
- 'Personalised Environmental Service Configuration and Delivery Orchestration' project website
Link to related video:
- PESCADO project video
- European Commission's Digital Agenda website