Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Artificial intelligence to help disaster aid coordination

Jan Piotrowski in The “fragmented” coordination between relief actors in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan last month underscores the need for artificial intelligence to streamline disaster response, says a team behind such an effort.

The ORCHID project — a consortium of UK universities and private firms — aims to make this possible by combining human and artificial intelligence into an efficient complementary unit known as a Human Agent Collective (HAC).

The computer systems being developed can assume tasks such as directing surveillance drones, resource management and search planning, says David Jones, head of Rescue Global, the disaster response organisation responsible for testing the software next year.

“Coordination of such a large response [after a disaster] is so challenging without technological assistance that makes data more accessible,” he tells SciDev.Net while on mission in the Philippines. “Bringing humans and artificial intelligence together is the only way to get the job done better.”

Computers’ data-crunching abilities mean they are good at making sense of the huge amounts of information generated during an emergency from local status reports, social media, and the array of organisations involved in the relief effort.

By collecting and analysing these data, HAC systems can flexibly implement a number of activities vital for disaster response, says Jones. These include planning the flight paths of surveillance drones, verifying the authenticity of information coming in from social media, facilitating data sharing and organising human teams based on their skill sets and current needs on the ground....

A drone used for a less benevolent purpose in Afghanistan, shot by Fg Off Owen Cheverton (UK defense imagery, aapprently), Wikimedia Commons, under the Open Government Licence v1.0

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