Wednesday June 20, 2018
Home Lead Story With the aid ...

With the aid of Twitter and AI, researchers to develop flood warning system

In a study, published in the journal Computers & Geosciences, the researchers showed how AI can be used to extract data from Twitter and crowdsourced information from mobile phone apps to build up hyper-resolution monitoring of urban flooding.

0
//
50
AI can play a key role in future flood warning and monitoring systems
AI can play a key role in future flood warning and monitoring systems
Republish
Reprint

London, Dec 26: Researchers are combining Twitter, citizen science and artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to develop an early-warning system for flood-prone communities in urban areas.

In a study, published in the journal Computers & Geosciences, the researchers showed how AI can be used to extract data from Twitter and crowdsourced information from mobile phone apps to build up hyper-resolution monitoring of urban flooding.

“By combining social media, citizen science and artificial intelligence in urban flooding research, we hope to generate accurate predictions and provide warnings days in advance,” said Roger Wang from University of Dundee in Britain.

Urban flooding is difficult to monitor due to complexities in data collection and processing.

This prevents detailed risk analysis, flooding control and the validation of numerical models.

The research team set about trying to solve this problem by exploring how the latest AI technology can be used to mine social media and apps for the data that users provide.

They found that social media and crowdsourcing can be used to complement datasets based on traditional remote sensing and witness reports.

Applying these methods in case studies, they found them to be genuinely informative and that AI can play a key role in future flood warning and monitoring systems.

“The present recording systems — remote satellite sensors, a local sensor network, witness statements and insurance reports — all have their disadvantages. Therefore, we were forced to think outside the box and one of the things that occurred to us was how Twitter users provide real-time commentary on floods,” Wang said.

“A tweet can be very informative in terms of flooding data. Key words were our first filter, then we used natural language processing to find out more about severity, location and other information,” Wang said.

The researchers applied computer vision techniques to the data collected from MyCoast, a crowdsourcing app, to automatically identify scenes of flooding from the images that users post.

“We found these big data-based flood monitoring approaches can definitely complement the existing means of data collection and demonstrate great promise for improving monitoring and warnings in future,” Wang said.

Twitter data was streamed over a one-month period in 2015, with the filtering keywords of “flood”, “inundation”, “dam”, “dike”, and “levee”. More than 7,500 tweets were analysed over this time.

“We have reached the point of 70 per cent accuracy and we are using the thousands of images available on MyCoast to further improve this,” Wang said.

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2017 NewsGram

Next Story

Ultra-Secure Lab In Gabon To Handle World’s Most Dangerous Viruses

'Teams on alert'

0
Dr. Mombo dons his white coat as he prepares to analyse samples at the Franceville International Centre of Medical Research (CIRMF) is seen on June 12, 2018 in Franceville.
Dr. Mombo dons his white coat as he prepares to analyse samples at the Franceville International Centre of Medical Research (CIRMF) is seen on June 12, 2018 in Franceville. VOA

At a research facility in Gabon, one isolated building stands behind an electrified fence, under round-the-clock scrutiny by video cameras. The locked-down P4 lab is built to handle the world’s most dangerous viruses, including Ebola.

“Only four people, three researchers and a technician, are authorized to go inside the P4,” said virologist Illich Mombo, who is in charge of the lab, one of only two in all of Africa that is authorized to handle deadly Ebola, Marburg and Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever viruses. The other is in Johannesburg.

The P4 was put up 800 metres (half a mile) distant from older buildings of the Franceville International Centre for Medical Research (CIRMF), in large grounds on the outskirts of Franceville, the chief city in the southeastern Haut-Ogooue province.

Filming the ultra-high-security lab or even taking photos is banned and the handful of people allowed inside have security badges. Backup power plants ensure an uninterruptable electricity supply. “Even the air that we breathe is filtered,” Mombo explains.

When he goes into the P4 lab to work on a sample of suspect virus such as Ebola — which has claimed 28 lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) during an outbreak in the past six weeks — Mombo wears a head-to-foot biohazard suit.

The special clothing is destroyed as soon as he has finished. Draconian measures are in force to prevent any risk of contamination, with potentially disastrous effects.

Ebola Virus, Treatment
Ebola Virus, Treatment, Pixabay

‘Teams on alert’

Once a suspect virus has been “inactivated” — a technique that stops the sample from being contagious — it is carefully taken from the P4 unit to other CIRMF laboratories in the compound, where it is analysed.

Specialized teams will scrutinize it, looking to confirm its strain of Ebola and hunting for clues such as the virus’s ancestry and evolution, which are vital for tracking the spread of the disease.

CIRMF director Jean-Sylvain Koumba, a colonel in the Gabonese army and a military doctor, said lab teams had been “placed on alert” to handle Ebola samples sent on by the National Institute of Biomedical Resarch in the DRC capital Kinshasa.

The nature of the sample can be determined with rare precision, for the facility has state-of-the-art equipment matched in few other places worldwide.

“On average, it takes 24 to 48 hours between the time when a sample arrives and when we get the results,” Mombo said.

Founded in 1979 by Gabon’s late president Omar Bongo Ondimba to study national fertility rates, the CIRMF moved on to AIDS, malaria, cancer, viral diseases and the neglected tropical maladies that affect a billion people around the world, according to the WHO.

The center is financed by the Gabonese state, whose main wealth is derived from oil exports, and gets help from France.

In all, 150 people work for the CIRMF and live on the huge premises. Its reputation draws scientists, students and apprentices from Asia, Europe and the United States, as well as Africa.

“[The] CIRMF is uniquely suited to study infectious diseases of the Congolese tropical rain forest, the second world’s largest rain forest,” two French scientists, Eric Leroy and Jean-Paul Gonzalez, wrote in the specialist journal Viruses in 2012.

“[It] is dedicated to conduct medical research of the highest standard … with unrivaled infrastructure, multiple sites and multidisciplinary teams.”

African child suffering from Malaria and ebola
African child suffering from Malaria and ebola, Pixabay

Animal ‘reservoir’?

The facility also conducts investigations into how lethal tropical pathogens are able to leap the species barrier, said Gael Darren Maganga, who helps run the unit studying the emergence of viral diseases.

“A passive watch consists of taking a sample from a dead animal after a request, while the active watch is when we go out ourselves to do fieldwork and take samples,” he said.

A major center of interest is the bat, seen as a potential “reservoir” — a natural haven — for the Ebola virus, said Maganga. Staff regularly go out all over Gabon to take samples of saliva, fecal matter and blood.

The consumption of monkey flesh and other bush meat is common practice in central Africa.

Also read: Vaccination Campaign Against Ebola Virus Launched In Democratic Republic of Congo

“It’s still a hypothesis, but the transmission to human beings could be by direct contact, for instance by getting scratches [from a bat] in caves, or by handling apes which have been infected by bat saliva,” he said. (VOA)