Artificial Intelligence

How Can AI Prevent Natural Disasters And Save Lives?

By 25th October 2018 No Comments

A Brief History of AI

There have been some amazing developments in artificial intelligence (AI) over the past decade. It wasn’t too long ago that AI was a science fiction dream that we didn’t think would exist in our lifetime. However, since the dawn of computing scientists have been experimenting with AI. Alan Turing wrote ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’ back in 1950, and even wrote a computer chess programme in 1948. The problem was, he didn’t have a computer powerful enough to run it back then. Fast forward to 2018 and AI is quickly becoming part of our everyday lives.

How is AI Used Today?

AI is being used in numerous different industries to help humans with daily tasks and make life easier. Artificial intelligence and machine learning have become established as a reliable resource when it comes to industries such as healthcare and software. Scientists are now looking to use AI for saving the planet, and our communities. With the introduction of AI combined with cloud technology, not only can we help people recover from natural disasters quicker, we can potentially help prevent them altogether.

How Can AI Help Us With Natural Disasters?

AI is currently being tested to help prevent natural disasters and aid in the recovery of the devastation that natural disasters leave behind. Natural disasters have plagued our world since the beginning of time, and until recently, there’s not much that could be done about them. Over the past two decades, natural disasters have killed over 600,000 people and resulted in trillions of pounds worth of damage. Floods are the biggest killer, and unfortunately, floods are becoming more frequent. Scientists believe this is due to global warming and other man-made factors.

With global warming increasing the temperature of the earth’s atmosphere, storms and hydro-meteorological disasters including hurricanes are on the increase. The introduction of concrete and pavements means the world is no longer a ‘sponge’ like it once was. Rapid urbanisation in flood-prone regions is also increasing the likeliness of flash floods. So, what is being done when it comes to AI and natural disasters? This blog explores some of the AI solutions that are being tested to help societies around the world.

Natural disasters are on the rise

Ellicott City Pilot Programme

After Ellicott city in Maryland was devasted by flooding in 2016, the US Department of Homeland Security selected Ellicott city for a pilot programme that aimed to deliver better flood warnings to residents via automated sensors. The action plan worked by sending out 48 cutting edge flood sensors for field testing in various locations around the city. The sensors collected valuable data that contributed to strengthening disaster preparedness. The sensors also aid in the development of a better flood warning system for residents. The information collected by the sensors has become hugely beneficial to communities in the wider world. Helping to inform us of how we can protect other communities from the risk of flooding.

Google Using AI to Prevent Floods in India

Earlier this year Google announced a new AI system that aims to warn people of predicted floods in India. Starting in the city of Patna with a pilot programme, Google aims to hopefully branch out to other Indian cities soon. The system works by implementing accurate flood warnings through physics-based models and AI. It also helps to predict dangerous high-risk areas with Google elevation data and sends alerts through Google Search to reach more people at risk.

AI to predict Earthquakes

AI is also being developed to try and reduce the damaged created by earthquakes

A team at Tokyo Metropolitan University is also researching ways in which AI can help prevent natural disasters. By using machine-learning techniques, the team managed to analyse small changes in the earth’s magnetic field. This allows the system to predict the onset of earthquakes far earlier than we have been able to previously. The team have created a machine learning algorithm, replicating how neurons are connected in the human brain. By using half a million data points that were taken over the year of 2015, the team was able to create a network capable of estimating the magnetic field at the specific data point. The overall goal is to be able to let residents know about earthquakes and tsunami’s in advance so that they can prepare and reach safety.

Microsoft AI for Humanitarian Action

In September of this year, Microsoft announced AI for Humanitarian Action. The programme focuses on four main actions. These include aiding in the recovery from natural disasters, addressing the needs of children, promoting human rights and providing solutions to help refugees and displaced people. The programme has cost Microsoft $40 million. It includes a five-year commitment to finding solutions to some of the biggest challenges the world faces today. AI technologies created by Microsoft using machine vision have the power to analyse images of roads destroyed by events, providing a solution for a faster response. Microsoft has also partnered with the World Bank, United Nations, and other influencers within the tech industry to use AI to predict future famines, resulting in aid being sent faster.

The Future of AI

So, what does AI look like for the future? We’ve certainly made significant advancements over the past century, and AI is continually gaining more momentum as we understand more about it. If AI is successful in lessening the destruction that natural disasters leave behind, then that’s certainly a huge step forward. AI is still very much in its infancy, however, the next big step in AI is predicted to incorporate the human brain with computer interfaces. The goal here would be to assist with medical conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and spinal cord injuries. Whilst this is still very far away, we look forward to the advancements AI has to offer us in the future.