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article imageMicrosoft 'AI for Earth' initiative uses tech to help the planet

By James Walker     Jul 12, 2017 in Technology
Microsoft has announced a new program that will see the company use the power of artificial intelligence to tackle environmental issues facing the planet. Microsoft is focusing on four of the biggest problems that are experienced across the world.
The initiative was launched today at an event in London. AI for Earth is described as a program to "empower people and organisations" to solve challenges in the environment and climate. Microsoft thinks that making AI more accessible could enable breakthroughs in sustainability that help to protect the Earth.
The company is specifically looking at using data to solve problems in the fields of agriculture, biodiversity, climate change and water access. The company has committed $2 million in the next fiscal year to facilitate this work. It will partner with individuals and organisations who have ideas for the future, offering AI tools to accelerate their projects.
Microsoft's not going to be directly investing in companies or taking equity stakes. Instead, it wants to provide tangible resources in the form of artificial intelligence. It's part of a wider endeavour within the company to position itself as a leading member of the AI industry. Solving sustainability challenges using AI will give Microsoft and the technology a place to demonstrate its benefits from.
Microsoft s AI for Earth project uses AI to help the environment
Microsoft's AI for Earth project uses AI to help the environment
Microsoft
Organisations involved with AI for Earth will be offered grants that enable them to access Microsoft's Azure cloud and AI computing tools. The company will also provide education on artificial intelligence, informing project leaders of what's available and how it works. The project is an extension of Microsoft's global mission to "empower" people, allowing it to assist committed organisations, promote AI and help the environment in one fell swoop.
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"Our goal is to empower others in new and more impactful ways to help create a more sustainable future," said Microsoft. "This program expands our commitments to democratizing AI and advancing sustainability around the globe. And it builds upon our experience in accelerating the pace of innovation bringing together philanthropic work, connectivity advances and more accessible technology around the world."
There are currently three "lighthouse" projects in the AI for Earth scheme. FarmBeats is a data-driven approach to farming that helps farmers improve their yield and lower costs. Project Premonition is tracking mosquitoes to monitor the spread of diseases. The final project, Land Cover Mapping, is a fast land mapping system being used by an NGO to help conserve the Chesaspeake watershed. Applications are currently open for groups looking to enrol in the program.
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