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US DOE establishes consortium to develop AI for first responders

by Chuck Martin
Article ImageA prototype system is in the works

The US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Artificial Intelligence and Technology Office (AITO) has created a consortium to investigate applications of AI for emergency response.

The First Five Consortium, co-chaired with Microsoft, was created in response to the White House Executive Forum focused on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Response, held in January 2020.

The First Five Consortium was named after the critical first five minutes when responding to a disaster.

A prototype system developed by the US Department of Defense (DoD) Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC), and is being scaled by the DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. It provides near real-time data to improve decision-making by first responders, relying on deep learning algorithms.

The JAIC has led the development of AI capability through its National Mission Initiatives since 2019.

Disaster resilience

“AITO is proud to lead on getting near real-time information into the hands of our first responders,” said Cheryl Ingstad, director of the office. “This will allow them to save more lives and protect assets and our nation’s resources. This is just one project of the broader effort, which will include contributions from all our partners, to use technology to improve humanitarian assistance and disaster response.”

The consortium plans to use AI and deep learning methodologies for research and development relating to wildfire prediction and fire containment, damage assessment with ingress and egress routes, search and rescue missions, and natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes.

To support the consortium, Microsoft set up a critical infrastructure team for comprehensive data collection and modeling.

“Artificial intelligence enables us to address some of humanity's greatest challenges, and in this case, improve disaster resilience for populations around the world,” said Toni Townes-Whitley, president of US regulated industries at Microsoft. “As evidenced by this consortium with the DOE and DoD, it’s critical that private and public sectors work together to provide first responders with technology that has the potential to save lives.”

The consortium created a portal for first responders to submit problem sets and use cases where AI may advance their mission.

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