An Overview of Functional Programming and Persistent Data Structures: CTO Tom Faulhaber discusses “Okasaki for Dummies”

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of talking to the team at Intertrust Technologies about functional programming. Part of the fun part was the audience: programmers and non-programmers. I wanted to help both groups understand functional programming and why it’s a powerful alternative to traditional models. As a result, this talk is very high-level and filled with pictures. It should be a good introduction to this important concept regardless of your programming background.

To learn more about these ideas and how they are transforming the way we program, you can watch a video of my talk here:

“Measuring to Manage” – A New Food Security Visualization Initiative by Planet OS

Today we are delighted to present a new initiative to create and publish a series of data visualizations that highlight the most alarming environmental trends contributing to the global decrease in food security. The visualizations to be debuted today at the Zoological Society of London’s The future of food – the future of biodiversity? conference in London, United Kingdom will seek to leverage our big data platform for the closer analysis of the global food security crisis. Our partners at Intertrust Technologies will also present their work digging through the data to secure our global food supply.

Environmental trends to be highlighted include how climate change-induced ocean acidification is threatening marine organisms; how abnormal weather events, such as the California drought, are impacting regional food production; and how economic growth affects our natural ecosystems, such as forests. Reductions in global marine organism counts, curtailed regional food production, and reduced forest area are just some of the many trends threatening to exacerbate the global food security crisis.

blog ocean viz

Creating a Planetary Nervous System


A little background

The United Nations is making a bold but necessary leap into the future by adopting the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda for the next 15 years. To learn what kind of ideas and innovations are already out there The United Nations Foundation, in collaboration with the White House Office of Science & Technology Policy and a handful of governments around the world, invited innovators, technologists, engineers and scientists to propose their solutions.

Of the 800 proposals from over 100 countries that came in, 14 were selected to present at the inaugural UN Solutions Summit at the UN Headquarters on Sunday, September 27, 2015.

Planet OS is truly honored to have been one of the innovators to present our solution creating a search engine for earth data to 250 senior policy makers and technology executives from around the world. Here is our founder and CEO Rainer Sternfeld’s lightning talk at the UN Solutions Summit.

Planet OS to present Sustainable Development Goal solution at the UN Solutions Summit


Our long-term vision at Planet OS is to index the real world. We believe indexing all of the world’s earth and environmental data will drive sustainable decisions in Earth observation, agriculture and marine ecosystems, energy production and consumption, logistics and transportation, manufacturing and communications. For the past year we have been building a revolutionary search engine that indexes large-scale earth observation data drawn from increasing amounts of smart instrumentation deployed in the atmosphere, oceans, seas, on land, and in space. This new platform will bring vast new amounts of information to the fingertips of the world’s governments, private enterprises, researchers, students, and anyone else searching for data.

Today we are honored to announce that we have been chosen to present this work at the United Nations Solutions Summit this Sunday, September 27th at the UN Headquarters in New York City. Applications were received from over 100 countries and we are humbled to be chosen among a truly impressive cohort of solutions.

Planet OS at the White House Presenting to the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy

A group of team members were invited to present on Planet OS at the White House to senior members of the United States Office of Science and Technology Policy yesterday in Washington D.C. CEO Rainer Sternfeld gave an overview of our products and solutions and discussed ways to make government data more open and accessible.

A shot of the team in front of the White House. From left to right: CTO Tom Faulhaber, CEO Rainer Sternfeld, Intertrust CEO Talal Shamoon, Chief Marine Scientist Dr. Chris Clark, Director of Product Development Chris Kalima, and COO Kalle Kagi.

A shot of the team in front of the White House. From left to right: CTO Tom Faulhaber, CEO Rainer Sternfeld, Intertrust CEO Talal Shamoon, Chief Marine Scientist Dr. Chris Clark, Director of Product Development Chris Kalima, and COO Kalle Kagi.

What’s a Temperature-Salinity plot?

Temperature-Salinity plot

As a visualization engineer at Planet OS, I learn new things everyday. My job is to get just enough domain specific knowledge to come up with visual solutions. This week I learned what is a Temperature-Salinity (T-S) plot.


Here’s a definition of what you can use a T-S plot for (from the same textbook as the image above):

“Plots of salinity as a function of temperature, called T-S plots, are used to delineate water masses and their geographical distribution, to describe mixing among water masses, and to infer motion of water in the deep ocean. Here’s why the plots are so useful: water properties, such as temperature and salinity, are formed only when the water is at the surface or in the mixed layer. Heating, cooling, rain, and evaporation all contribute. Once the water sinks below the mixed layer, temperature and salinity can change only by mixing with adjacent water masses. Thus water from a particular region has a particular temperature associated with a particular salinity, and the relationship changes little as the water moves through the deep ocean.”

We had the need to plot temperature and salinity as a function of pressure (which could also be used to infer depth). As Ryan Abernathey kindly mentioned, this chart is different from a T-S plot. The image above shows a T-S plot on the right and a plot of temperature and salinity over pressure on the left. My goal was to reproduce the left one, inspired by the chart from this paper starting from this dataset.


From the visualization standpoint, we can see two lines: one for salinity and one for temperature, both on the X axis, while pressure is on the Y axis. I like to see them as sensors dropped from a boat, coming down the water column, then moving back up, getting measurements along the way. That’s why we can see these two lines making a round-trip from top to bottom and back.

The chart implemented can be zoomed and panned which is useful to better see some intricate patterns. One interesting feature I don’t get to implement often is multiple axes. The creator of ggplot2 (the best charts library IMO), Hadley Wickham, has some strong arguments against multiple axes. We could certainly discuss alternatives, like small multiples or some linked scatterplots, but T-S plots are the tool these experts are used to use. And my opinion is that the best tool in the world is less useful than the tool we already master.

Go try it out here! This T-S plot and many others are part of some upcoming features we will announce soon. So stay in touch!

Chris Viau
Data visualization engineer at Planet OS

A Brief Intro to Visualizing Datasets on a Heatmap with Cirrus.js

We launched Cirrus.js a few weeks ago to share some of the visualization technologies we are developing here at Planet OS. We recently encountered the need to visualize some datasets on a heatmap, so we added one to Cirrus.js.


So what is a heatmap? And what kind of data can it visualize? One of the challenges of building a tool to index all environmental sensor data is that we have to work with a huge variety of data formats and structures. One of these structures is two dimensional data (2D data). We tend to understand 2D data as any data that can fit on a table, where each cell being at the intersection of a row and a column contains a value. But 2D data can mean multiple things, and only some 2D datasets are suitable for a heatmap. Let’s give some examples from the environmental sensor data we work with on a daily basis at Planet OS.

Planet OS and TCarta Marine Deliver On-Demand Shoreline and Bathymetry Data

TCarta Data Marketplace

Planet OS and TCarta Marine are excited to announce the launch of the TCarta Data Marketplace, an online storefront that provides on-demand access to TCarta’s bathymetry and shoreline data products.

“We are excited for the launch of the Data Marketplace and believe it will be a great tool for our customers to search, preview, and order bathymetry data in an efficient and easy to use manner.” Says Kyle Goodrich, President TCarta Marine LLC.

Planet OS Hires Big Data Expert Tom Faulhaber as Chief Technology Officer

Tom Faulhaber

Planet OS is pleased to announce it has hired Tom Faulhaber as its Chief Technology Officer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Tom is a software industry veteran who brings over 30 years of experience in leading and consulting product development teams.

He has previously worked on industry-leading data products in such diverse areas as massive geospatial-temporal big data at SpaceCurve, scientific visualization at AVS (the Application Visualization System), video intelligence at 3VR, e-Commerce at Staples and cloud-based business intelligence at Certive (now Cloud9 Analytics).