The title "Feeding a Hungry World: Using Oracle Products to Ensure Global Food Security" was captivating. I figured it had to be worth driving from the South Bay to Redwood Shores to check out the Analytics and Data Summit. The result, it was worth it. Two gentlemen, Bertin Noutchang and Mark Pelletier Engineers with the USDA/Inuteq gave a fascinating presentation.
They talked about an important event called "The Great Grain Robbery" (I knew about the Great Train Robbery but had never hear of this), that took place in 1972 when the Soviet Union purchased 10 million tons of US grain at subsidized prices. The net result was a shortage in the U.S., so much so that a year later food prices in the U.S. had shot up by 50%. The event led the U.S. government to track global crop production and conditions affecting food security using various mechanisms including satellite based imagery via a division of the USDA, called IPAD.
IPAD gets its data from three sources including Field travel, weather data (via stations and satellites) and vegetation data (also via satellites). This process generates about 2GB of data per day and they have a 2TB Oracle Instance and a10TB file System. Considering the scope of their work I was surprised that there wasn't a flood of data. Mark, explained that the map of the globe is broken down into large pixels (not like the ones we have on our phones or laptops) but humongous ones that are 1/24 of a degree square. From humidity, temperature and other things they monitor they produce lots of graphs in real time that are available via the USDA.
All the raster data is converted to rows and columns and stored in the database. They make use of In-Memory Columnar, and Exadata which gives them via hardware huge performance advantages.
The net advantage of all this technology is that it allows IPAD to estimate future crop output and to know if there will be a surplus or shortfall and that in turn will provide valuable data to the commodities markets. Food security is a serious business and it is great to see technology being used for the greater good.