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article imageMicrosoft offers AI tools to help researchers protect the oceans

By James Walker     Oct 9, 2017 in Technology
Microsoft has announced a new award which will provide ocean researchers with access to AI and cloud tools. The company said it wants organisations to be able to harness the power of AI to help protect the oceans, extending its AI for Earth program.
Microsoft announced AI for Earth back in July as a way of demonstrating how artificial intelligence can help the planet. Under the program, Microsoft is awarding grants to research organisations that develop compelling ideas to protect elements of the environment. The most promising concepts, which use AI to push the boundaries of their research, are granted AI and cloud computing resources on Microsoft's Azure platform.
Microsoft's now adding a new research area to AI for Earth. The EU Oceans Award is available to European-based research groups that are looking at ways of protecting the oceans. Oceans and the habitats they harbour require massive amounts of computing power to accurately model. Using AI, more sophisticated models can be created which could offer breakthrough insights into some of the biggest ocean challenges.
Microsoft cited a few examples of how AI's already being used to benefit oceans and coastal communities. Researchers at the University of Washington used a cloud-based model to predict peak acidity levels in the Puget Sound. The information obtained was passed to local oyster farmers who could then improve their harvest. A similar effort in Australia used machine learning to process data from various IoT sensors that then helped oyster farms maximise their harvest.
Microsoft said it's already awarded $235,000 in Azure computing resources to 20 successful AI for Earth applicants worldwide. The initiative is supposed to spur interest and innovation in environmental research and machine learning, mutually benefitting both fields. It's also an important test of Microsoft's tech that it can use to demonstrate the power of artificial intelligence to other industries.
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"Technology can have a dramatic, positive impact on local communities and economies by helping them better manage their natural resources," said Microsoft. "We are excited about our new AI for Earth grantees and our new EU Oceans Award, and look forward to expanding the success of the many projects we are supporting to better understand and manage Earth's many ecosystems, both on land and in the water."
The application window for the next round of AI for Earth grants closes on October 15. The EU Oceans Award, unveiled at the Our Ocean conference in Malta last week, will be open to applicants until December 15. Microsoft will provide the accepted proposal with access to Azure services for IoT, data analytics and machine learning, enabling deeper research into the world's ocean environments.
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