Connect with us

Featured

Facebook uses AI to create density maps of Africa

Published

on

Facebook is working closely with key non-profit and research partners to use artificial intelligence (AI) and big data to address large-scale social, health and infrastructure challenges in sub Saharan Africa. These efforts range from rural electrification in Tanzania to vaccinating people in remote corners of Malawi.

Facebook is applying the processing muscle of its compute power, its extensive data science skills and its expertise in AI and machine learning to create the world’s most detailed and accurate maps of local populations. Facebook also partners with Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN (http://www.ciesin.org/)) to ensure that this effort leverages the best available administrative data for all countries involved.

The Boston-based Facebook team uses advanced computer vision and machine learning to combine satellite imagery from Digital Globe with public census data and other sources to create detailed population density maps of Africa. Using Facebook’s machine learning capabilities, Facebook started developing population density maps to provide better tools to support connectivity efforts around the world. No Facebook data has been or will be used in the project and the census and satellite data used contain no personally identifiable information.

High-resolution satellite imagery already exists for much of the world. However, prior to Facebook’s mapping project, it would have required countless hours for volunteers to comb through millions of square miles of pictures to identify which contained a tiny town or remote village.

The Facebook team used AI to solve that problem, efficiently crunching through data at a petabyte scale. For Africa alone, for example, the computer vision system examined 11.5 billion individual images to determine whether they contained a building. The team found approximately 110 million buildings in just a few days.

“Having started my career at USAID working on malaria control, I have witnessed first-hand the critical role that accurate data plays in the effectiveness of humanitarian efforts,” says Laura McGorman, a public policy manager at Facebook. “What’s exciting about projects like these that they provide an opportunity for our company to contribute to these efforts through our expertise in data and machine learning.”

In Malawi, the Missing Maps Project used these AI-powered maps to filter out the 97% of the terrain that is uninhabited. This helped to coordinate the efforts of 3,000 Red Cross volunteers in Malawi who visited roughly 100,000 houses in just three days to educate people about measles and rubella vaccines

“The maps from Facebook ensure we focus our volunteers’ time and resources on the places they’re most needed, improving the efficacy of our programs,” says Tyler Radford, executive director of the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, which is part of the Missing Maps Project.

In addition to assisting the Red Cross and Missing Maps Project in Malawi, the maps have been used by aid groups like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the World Bank, and Humanitarian OpenStreetMap. In Tanzania, Facebook’s AI-powered maps helped kick-start efforts to bring renewable electrification to rural areas.

To understand which locations would benefit most from decentralized energy solutions, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team collaborated with the Reiner Lemoine Institut and Integration Environment and Energy to combine Facebook’s population maps with detailed data on settlement locations and structures from OpenStreetMap.

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap team personnel then travelled to villages identified as high priority and conducted surveys to understand the populations’ electricity needs. The results of these surveys were provided to agencies involved in rural electrification, helping mini-grid operators choose the most appropriate locations to begin the work.

The Facebook population density maps project now aims to keep adding new continents and countries.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Featured

How smartphones make you safer on the roads

From insurance benefits to free drinks and snacks, apps offer incentives that change driving behaviour, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

Published

on

Let’s get the true confessions out of the way: on Mondays, I’m an appalling driver. On Tuesdays, I’m world class.

That’s the harsh truth presented to me by my smartphone, in collaboration with a sensor in a car and an app on my smartphone. But here’s the kicker: thanks to the reward I’ve been offered for my behaviour on Tuesday, chances are that I’m going to make Wednesday great, too. And come next Monday, I will probably be a little less appalling. However, there is only so far one can go on a Monday, regardless of coffee and other awards.

Thanks to interactive technology, though, it is likely I will become less of a menace on the roads over time, regardless of the day of the week.

But first, answer this question: Which would you prefer from an insurance company: threats of punishment, or promises of rewards? The answer is obvious, yet most insurance companies are still firmly in 20th century mode: promise the world, but make it exceptionally difficult to claim when things go wrong.

Of course, there is a better way. And thanks to technology, many better ways. In recent years, short-term insurance companies have latched on to the secret long known in medical insurance: rewards incentivise behaviour.

The concept was pioneered give years ago by South Africa’s Discovery, which extended its Vitality health rewards programme to car insurance. The medical aid giant entered a strategic partnership deal with US-based Cambridge Mobile Telematics, which had developed technology that allows users to combine massive amounts of sensor data from smartphones, other mobile devices, and cars. The technology category is called telematics, which nowadays tends to be seen as a sub-category of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for any device to be connected to the Internet for sending and receiving data automatically.

In South Africa, the result was the Discovery Insure smartphone app on phones and the Vitality Drive Sensor, placed in a vehicle. Both Discovery and its clients are able to keep close tabs on driving behaviour. By roping in Vitality-style rewards, Discovery also incentivises improved driving behaviour. Almost as significantly, it allows the company to gather data from a large group of drivers to learn more about the impact of both good and bad driving behaviour.

The concept has taken off around the world. US-based Root Insurance has pioneered “usage-based insurance” in the USA, obtaining a valuation close to $1-billion through enthusiastic early investors. Root has also latched onto discounts, offering reduced premiums for keeping the app running. In the United Kingdom, at least half a dozen companies are offering “black box insurance” using telematics.

South African companies are far ahead of the game. Two years ago, Avis launched the SafeDrive app, using Discovery’s sensor system, and with a Vitality-style rewards concept built in. That is its key differentiator from almost any other car rental company in this country: it rewards its customers for driving well.

By connecting to the sensor, the app collects data on the movement of the car, and scores the driver on smoothness of acceleration, driving and braking. The app on the phone links it to mapping data, including speed limits, so that the driver is also rated on speeding. Finally, the smartphone itself detects when the driver is using it, meaning that one loses points for bad driving as well as for using the phone while driving. The app also cannot link to mapping and other data when the phone is not in range of mobile data connectivity.

The upside is that, when one scores 80% or more, one is able to activate rewards on an upward sliding scale. From 80 to 84, the app unlocks free coffee  from Vida E Caffe or a hot drink from Kauai. The next tier, from 85-89, delivers the likes of a chicken sandwich from Nando’s. Superb driving above 90% takes you all the way to full breakfast at Mugg & Bean, or the equivalents at the other partners.

Avis saw immediate benefits:  early stats showed that Avis customers redeeming the rewards improved their driving by 5%, while there was an 8- 12% improvement in driving within seven days of a trip. In other words, drivers took steps to improve their driving over time.

The app also uses the phone to alert Avis of severe impacts, or severe weather alerts, as well as providing a panic button function for emergencies – with 24-hour access to an emergency centre.

Ironically, it was city driving that earned me the most rewards, with several 100% trips despite stop-start traffic and numerous speed limit changes. A trip to Limpopo on a Monday destroyed my credibility, however: on one long, straight stretch of road in the open countryside, with almost no traffic in either direction for an hour, I found it impossible to keep to the 60km speed limit. SafeDrive had no sympathy, and scored me a dismal 70%.

I was determined to make up for it the next day, and saw the rewards flowing in. Sadly, I didn’t have time to cash in, and that raises a suggestion for both Vitality and Avis: when customers don’t take up their rewards, they should automatically be allocated to charities. It is an option on the Vitality app, but has to be specifically selected. Automate that, and drivers will also be doing good by driving better.

Click here to read how the SafeDrive app works.

Previous Page1 of 2

Continue Reading

Featured

Bravado debuts SA Fortnite team

Published

on

They have been blazing trails in Call of Duty, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and FIFA. Now South Africa’s top esports group, sponsored by Dell, Alienware and Intel, has expanded into one of the biggest competitive games on the planet.

Bravado Fortnite will officially launch at the Dell Technologies Forum, this week, on 27 June, at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg. Attendees will be able to meet the team and the rest of Bravado, as well as take part in Fortnite matches.

Fortnite is leading the battle royale genre with its mix of action and high-level strategy,” said Bravado’s CEO, Andreas Hadjipaschali. “It’s also cross-platform, so it can be played on many different gaming devices. This has made it a popular choice for many gamers and attracted many competitors. After our successes with creating and supporting winning teams in other games, adopting Fortnite as our latest competitive tier makes perfect sense.”

Welcome to Fortnite

Fortnite is a new breed of competitive gaming genre called ‘battle royale’. Each match can host up to a hundred competitors – if your character is eliminated, they must sit out for the rest of the round. The pressure rises as the game’s playable map gets smaller, forcing players closer to each other. It’s a ‘last player standing’ format where matches can be played by individuals or two-player teams.

There is also an elaborate construction element: players can build structures to protect themselves, block enemies and gain higher ground. It’s a kinetic experience, which makes Fortnite very popular for online streaming audiences. It’s also a major esports title, with major tournaments offering millions of dollars in prize pools.

Fortnite is played by millions of people every day. It boasts over 250 million registered users and has hosted up to 10 million players at a time across numerous matches.

“Once I had experienced the mechanic of building and editing, I was instantly hooked,” said Tristan “Zozu” Rens, Bravado’s Fortnite team captain. “It was something I haven’t seen in a game before and I knew there was something different about it. I’ve never been a fan of battle royale games before I played Fortnite. But the nature of competitive Fortnite, with final storm circles the size of football fields with 40 players battling for the 1st place, is something I couldn’t get enough of. As time went by, the hunger to pursue it professionally grew.”

Rens and his teammates are not afraid to put in the work: they train for between 6 and 10 hours a day. Right now Bravado Fortnite is focusing on perfecting its team synergy and will be active both online and at LANs to gain maximum experience.

The Fortnite gloves are off: Bravado has entered its world and aims to lead the way for other South African esports athletes, current and aspirant. That pool of talent is growing every day. If you want to get some tips on how to get into esports, reach out to Bravado or its players through the official website, their social media accounts, or drop in when there is a tournament near you.

But why wait? Bravado will be at the Dell Technologies Forum, 27 June at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg. Meet the team, check out the latest Alienware systems and blow off some steam in exciting Fortnite matches. Head over to https://www.delltechnologies.com/en-za/events/forum2019/Johannesburg/index.htm and register to attend this one-day event. Then lock and load for some Fortnite action!

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2019 World Wide Worx