Can technology be our great ally in the fight against environmental problems?
This is news that challenges us every summer: forest fires. In 2020, the two largest fires in Spain, Huelva and Cáceres, burned a quarter of the total hectares burned so far in our country, according to data from the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge. The problem is global: the fires in California, Australia and Canada last year were also particularly devastating. Climate change seems to play a fundamental role in the proliferation of fires which represent a high cost in human life, flora, fauna and economic damage, among others.
Can data analytics and artificial intelligence help manage fires and prevent their spread? At EY, we are convinced that this is the case and that is why the Better Working World Data Challenge is focusing this year on this question. Aimed at university students and young professionals with less than two years of experience all over the world, including Spain, those interested can now register through the EY website, until June 15. Those who participate must, as a first challenge, detect fires using images sent by satellites. The second challenge, accessible only to those who have overcome the first, goes further and proposes to anticipate and be able to anticipate the evolution of fires. In short, it’s about trying to build an automated forest fire detection and forecasting model that helps manage them and minimize their impact.
In collaboration with EY, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is participating in this initiative by providing satellite imagery and Microsoft, which is providing the Azure platform for algorithm development. Participants will use the platform in conjunction with satellite imagery to develop algorithms to help fire management teams improve decision making during emergency response. In addition, these models must also predict the possible evolution of fires.
EY Better Working World Data Challenge is part of EY’s commitment to innovate and use technology to solve some of today’s biggest environmental problems. “It is essential to encourage budding scientists and help them recognize that they can apply their skills to analyze real problems and develop algorithms that can have a lasting positive impact. We empower participants to use the power of data to find innovative solutions to complex problems, ”says Beatriz Sanz, partner at EY Global Consulting Data.
A series of webinars jointly developed by experts from EY and Microsoft will take place throughout the three-month competition to provide participants with additional task information and help them become familiar with the Azure platform. In addition, “they will also benefit from the support of a network made up of forest fire authorities, scientific organizations and environmental observation groups from around the world,” says EY Global’s partner.
The prizes, which will be announced in July of this year, are twofold: $ 6,000 and $ 3,000 in cash for the winners of the first challenge and $ 10,000 and $ 5,000 for the second. Last year’s challenge brought together over 4,500 participants from around the world.
It’s not just about predicting the future, it’s about building a better one.
Why the fires? Technology and data can generate innovative solutions to complex global problems, such as forest fires. No one doubts that they represent a global threat and many countries and regions (Australia, California, Canada, Mediterranean, Amazonia …) repeatedly suffer from long and long seasons of fires. Losses of human life, property and biodiversity caused by forest fires have a significant negative impact on local health, ecosystems and economies. In addition, the constant increase in temperatures due to climate change suggests that this problem will intensify in the years to come. Solutions are needed and technology can be of great help to us in meeting this challenge.