Microsoft to create AI for nationwide disaster warning system

Microsoft will develop an artificial intelligence model for the US to help predict and manage natural disasters. Engineers are confident that they can save tens of thousands of lives.

The US Department of Energy has teamed up with Microsoft to create AI tools to help alert people to natural disasters. They called themselves “The Five Minutes Team” and will work on technologies for predicting events such as tsunamis, storms, and forest fires. The team is named after the critical first five minutes of a natural disaster – the faster first responders are trained at an early stage, the more people they can save.

The company’s Pacific Northwest Laboratory has already developed a prototype deep learning model that can help disaster responders make real-time disaster-related decisions.

“There are so many technologies that we could use to solve some of our toughest problems as we face wildfires and floods and some really major natural disasters”, said the Director of Artificial Intelligence and Technology at the US Department of Energy Cheryl Ingstad. “We think we can bring artificial intelligence tools here and help save lives”.

Engadget notes that this is a logical collaboration: Microsoft has the tools and infrastructure to process huge amounts of data, and the US government needs more efficient ways to prepare for impending disasters. California and the western United States are currently experiencing another bushfire season. The state of Iowa is still recovering from a severe wind storm, and last year nearly 14 million people in the Midwest and South were affected by severe flooding.