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How AI can overcome global challenges

Global warming is just the tip of the iceberg regarding the worldwide issues that AI can address.

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With COP27 concluding with a mixed bag of results, many sticking points are still left to be resolved for the foreseeable future, from phasing out fossil fuels to managing “loss and damage” and the viability of the 1.5°C goals.

These impasses demonstrate that solutions to global challenges need to be created by approaching them from a new angle and avoiding the much-beaten paths so often reiterated by politics.

Given the COP27’s emphasis on the impact of climate change, the growing importance of data is seen by experts as key to managing and perhaps alleviating climate change-induced impacts.

Experts are advocating the earnest application of AI to find such elusive solutions.

While climate change is an obvious issue to start with, AI’s uses extend well beyond managing public health and transport in an increasingly crowded and urbanized world. 

Combatting the climate crisis

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No matter the outcome of COP27, the climate crisis will continue to deepen.

At present, the pledges and actions undertaken by the world’s nations are not sufficient to prevent 2°C in global warming, let alone the targeted 1.5°C ceilings, which would have devastating consequences for countless vulnerable communities.

Indeed, the UN predicts that there will be up to one billion climate migrants within the next 30 years.

Although it will take far more than AI to prevent that scenario from unfolding, it can help governments and aid organizations anticipate the onset of natural disasters.

Thus, diverting resources pre-emptively and making them more accessible to those who need them most.

Through AI-driven data modeling to predict the spread of wildfires or flooding, climate insights will become more accessible to all stakeholders.

Therefore, this is an important factor in making informed, actionable decisions. 

Other eco-friendly applications of AI include the ability to reduce a company’s greenhouse gas emissions by between 5% and 10%, as well as calculate the environmental footprint of individual products and services.

Meanwhile, global organizations such as UNEP, Microsoft, and NASA are developing platforms, apps, and computers that can assimilate climate data from all over the world to uncover the most detailed and up-to-the-minute insights.

A non-intrusive ‘new norm’

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Technology has a virtually limitless range of positive impacts on human endeavors, as can be witnessed in its role in allowing businesses to adjust to a post-pandemic world.

The thermal kits, pads, and helmets developed by Remark Holdings are a notable case in point.

The technology can scan the temperature of up to 120 people per minute at a distance of two to five meters, enhancing the safety of public environments.

For example, such as shops, restaurants, hospitals, and entertainment venues. Not only is it 10 times faster than manual checks, but it’s far less invasive and can simultaneously enhance security.

These thermal solutions have already proven popular in the USA and Japan. They were deployed as early as April 2020 and were instrumental in helping businesses reopen their doors after strict lockdown restrictions.

Later that year, they were also installed at seven healthcare facilities in Oklahoma to improve safety and hygiene without impinging on the customer experience.

Adapting to a crowded planet

While public health management will ever increase in importance as the world reaches a population of 8 billion, a general need for managing human movement in ever more crowded cities is becoming indispensable as urbanization continues to accelerate.

By 2030, 60 percent of the world population will live in urban regions, putting significant pressure on infrastructure. As such, AI has an abundance of potential applications in the transportation industry.

Self-driving cars and other automated vehicles (Avs) are perhaps the headline development, and they have already been implemented in trial cities worldwide.

In Boston, Massachusetts, for example, over 100,000 journeys have been completed by Motional without accident.

Indeed, the removal of human error promises to make driving a much safer and more pleasant activity in the future, both in terms of the vehicles themselves and the infrastructure surrounding them.

Traffic management systems can ease congestion by optimizing the flow of vehicles, as has been witnessed in Phoenix, Arizona, where the introduction of AI-powered traffic lights has slashed journey times by 40%.

crowd of people with data points over their heads via facial recognition
Image: KnowTechie

One street in Melbourne is aiming to go one step beyond by combining cameras, sensors, and LiDAR to feed a central control system that improves efficiency and enhances safety in one fell swoop.

The tech can improve the user experience by anticipating traffic hotspots, rerouting journeys, and even recommending parking spaces hours in advance.

And when combined with sophisticated hardware capable of recognizing helmetless motorcyclists, bikes with too many people on them, and speeding infringements, the software can automatically challenge transgressors, cutting down on red tape.

As the transportation director responsible for implementing AI in Phoenix to such good effect noted, the city is “using technology that wasn’t available five or 10 years ago”.

Indeed, it’s easy to forget that AI is still in its infancy when it has come so far in such a short time that it is now becoming ubiquitous in our everyday lives.

Of course, there are obstacles to overcome. Concerns remain surrounding data privacy, the possibility of a Big Brother surveillance state, and even the prudence of entrusting machines with so much responsibility.

In business terms, access to AI solutions and the expertise to use them to maximum effect are both challenges that decision-makers must tackle.

Even so, all of the above are more teething problems than terminal flaws with the technology, and it’s merely a matter of “when,” not “if” they are overcome.

With so many boons and benefits to offer the human race, AI is here to stay.

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