Why are coal plants in the U.S. and Europe closing at an accelerating rate, while in Asia, coal consumption went up and helped fuel an overall 1.7% year-on-year increase in global carbon emissions? Part of the reason coal continues to grow in countries like China and India is that in these areas, unlike in the U.S., emissions data can be shoddy or hard to acquire. Without accurate information it is harder to hold facilities accountable and keep them in line with meeting emission reduction targets. To address this situation, we are partnering with WattTime and the World Resources Institute (WRI), to launch a new project which will use satellite imagery to quantify carbon emissions from every major power plant across the world. This effort is being funded as one of 20 projects in the Google AI Impact Challenge.
This May, the global group of Google AI Impact Challenge grantees gathered in San Francisco to kick off the six-month Launchpad Accelerator program. With $25 million in funding from Google.org, credits from Google Cloud and mentorship by Google's AI experts, the teams sought to apply AI to address a wide range of problems problems, from protecting rainforests to coaching students on writing skills. Now in the second phase of the program, Tech Sprint Week, the grantees tackled their projects' greatest technical challenges with support from a team of mentors from Google. At Google for Startups' campus in London, teams continued work on their ideas and learned user experience design principles along the way. Grace Mitchell, a data scientist at grantee WattTime, opened up about her team's experience at Tech Sprint Week--and how they're using AI to build a globally accessible, open-source fossil fuel emissions monitoring platform for power plants.
American University of Beirut is developing a tool that farmers in the Middle East and Africa can use to irrigate fields at the optimum times to save water. At Colegio Mayor de Nuestra Señora del Rosario, a university in Colombia, researchers will use satellite images to detect illegal mines that are polluting community drinking water. Crisis Text Line, a nonprofit that connects people experiencing a crisis with volunteer counselors by text message, uses AI to evaluate messages and move the people who are in most danger to the front of the line. In Australia, a public health service called Eastern Health will use AI to comb through clinical records from ambulances and find patterns in suicide attempts–and ways to intervene earlier. Full Fact, an independent fact-checking organization in the U.K., is using AI to help human fact-checkers more quickly assess claims made by politicians and the media.
Cloud computing giant Salesforce has achieved two big feats: net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in its direct operations, and a "carbon-neutral cloud" for all its customers. The San Francisco firm on Thursday said it reached the environmental milestones by investing in wind power systems, designing energy-efficient data centers and buildings, and by purchasing credits from clean energy projects to offset its remaining fossil fuel use. "We're seeing the urgency to act on climate change now more than ever," said Patrick Flynn, Salesforce's senior director of sustainability. SEE ALSO: Google's data centers, offices will use 100% renewable energy in 2017 Salesforce is part of a larger movement by global tech companies to confront their sector's growing carbon footprint. After all, storing data in the cloud and streaming millions of movie and music files still has a major environmental impact.
The idea of access to artificial intelligence (often referred to as "AI" for short) for all is still at a nascent stage. Nevertheless, its potential is limitless – from refugee assistance, to helping students at risk of not completing school, to shortening the response time for teens who are in a personal crisis. During the recent Dreamforce conference in San Francisco, several nonprofit leaders discussed how the use of artificial intelligence and other technologies, such as machine learning, can dramatically improve lives – including those of many who live in the most underserved communities.