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Technology for good: Oracle Switzerland unites with Zoo Zurich to save the penguins

Climate change is threatening the delicate ecological balance of our world—and it’s happening so rapidly that many species are struggling to adapt and survive. Penguins are at a particularly high risk due to the Antarctic region warming faster than any other place south of the equator.

This is the backdrop to Save the Penguins: an interactive app that uses augmented reality to highlight the serious situation penguins are facing today, and animates people to support. It was the winning entry from Team Oracle at the HackZurich hackathon, one of the largest hackathons in Europe which brings the best developers from more than sixty countries together to develop innovative web, mobile, and desktop applications.

Our team included experts from Oracle Switzerland and Oracle Labs, as well as subject matter experts from Zoo Zurich, all of whom worked around the clock for more than 40 hours to build a working prototype that could change the way we think about our lifestyle choices and their environmental impact.

A critical piece of the puzzle

Why is this so important now? Because penguin living conditions and resources are deteriorating dramatically. Just one example of this is over-fishing: Not only does this deplete precious feeding resources for penguins, the fishing industry activity that goes along with it increases carbon emissions, causing icebergs to melt, which in turn further damages penguin habitats. Penguins are ecologically critical for a variety of reasons. For starters, they fertilize their landscape by carrying critical nutrients between land and sea. They also affect prey populations by hunting fish, squid, and krill. Similarly, penguins—adults, young, and eggs—serve as food for predators such as leopard seals and seabirds in cold areas.

Partnering for good

Albert Noll, Oracle Technology Solutions and Cloud Engineering Leader, was in a mentoring role for this development project. He says the working relationship between Oracle and Zoo Zurich was a natural fit. “We wanted to find a partner that was doing something good for the environment and doing something good for society, and Zoo Zurich were looking for someone with great technology. We shared a social mission and I think that’s why it was a perfect match,” he observes.

“The app has two main purposes,” Albert continues, “on the one hand, it raises awareness that there is actually a problem. Recognizing the problem is always the first step. In line with that, it provides people with information: what kind of species the penguins are, where they live, zoo visitors can get all this on the app. The second purpose is to make people take action and then encourage donations that can be used to support penguin research projects and conservation projects. The whole data driven approach by Oracle was really the backbone of the project.”

Empowering employees; creating change-makers

Albert is proud that his employer is focused on making the world a better place through the sharing of sustainable technology—it inspires him to look for innovative solutions to social problems and use his talents to make a difference. Does he feel like Oracle empowers its employees to enact change? “Absolutely. Especially with the role that I’m in and the whole environment here,” he responds. “I have big trust from management and senior leadership to take action, sit in the driver’s seat, and steer opportunities towards being successful. Of course, that’s good for customers, and for us personally. I think trust is one of the major cornerstones in empowering employees to do some good.”

It’s never too late

When it comes to making a difference for our planet, Albert is confident that technology has the answers. He has this advice for fellow innovators: “Remember that there is never just one solution. Don't ever believe that the problem is too big and or that it’s too late, because every little step helps. Technology of all kinds will play an important role in informing us and recommending behavioral changes based on data analysis. This is what can change our future in a real way.”

Oracle has been recognized as a global leader in advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. If you want to work for a company that empowers its people to innovate for change, explore our range of career opportunities  in Switzerland and create the future with us.

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