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Smartphones Would Soon Be Able to Predict Flash Floods: Study

Data would then be processed into real-time forecasts and returned to the users with a forecast or a warning to those in danger zones.

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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

With smartphones capable of measuring atmospheric pressure, temperatures and humidity, a novel study suggested that the devices may one day be able to track and anticipate weather patterns that lead to flash floods.

Researchers noted that smartphones can be harnessed to forecast flash floods as well as other natural disasters.

“The sensors in our smartphones are constantly monitoring our environment including gravity, the earth’s magnetic field, atmospheric pressure, light levels, humidity, temperatures, sound levels and more,” said lead researcher Colin Price, Professor at the Tel Aviv University.

“Vital atmospheric data exists today on some 3 to 4 billion smartphones worldwide. This data can improve our ability to accurately forecast the weather and other natural disasters that are taking so many lives every year,” he added.

smartphones could provide real-time weather alerts
smartphones could provide real-time weather alerts. Flickr

In the study, published in the Journal of Atmospheric and Solar-Terrestrial Physics, the team placed four smartphones under controlled conditions and analysed the data to detect phenomena such as “atmospheric tides,” which are similar to ocean tides.

They also analysed data from a UK-based app called WeatherSignal.

While the smartphones could provide real-time weather alerts through a feedback loop, the public was able to find atmospheric data on the “cloud” via an application.

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This data would then be processed into real-time forecasts and returned to the users with a forecast or a warning to those in danger zones, the researchers explained.

“We can’t prevent flash floods from happening, but soon we may be able to use the public’s smartphone data to generate better forecasts and give these forecasts back to the public in real time via their phones,” Price noted. (IANS)

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Facebook To Invest $300Mn In Local News Partnerships, Programs

The idea behind the investments, Brown said, is to look “holistically at how a given publisher can define a business model."

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Facebook, dating
Facebook owned photo-messaging app Instagram already supports the "Unsend" capability VOA

Facebook says it is investing $300 million over the next three years in local news programs, partnerships and other initiatives.

The money will go toward reporting grants for local newsrooms, expanding Facebook’s program to help local newsrooms with subscription business models and investing in nonprofits aimed at supporting local news.

The move comes at a difficult time for the news industry, which is facing falling profits and print readership. Facebook, like Google, has also been partly blamed for the ongoing decline in newspapers’ share of advertising dollars as people and advertisers have moved online.

Facebook, Fake News
A user gets ready to launch Facebook on an iPhone, in North Andover, Mass., June 19, 2017. Facebook has made changes to fight false information, including de-emphasizing proven false stories in people’s feeds so others are less likely to see them. VOA

Campbell Brown, Facebook’s head of global news partnerships, acknowledges the company “can’t uninvent the internet,” but says it wants to work with publishers to help them succeed on and off the social network.

“The industry is going through a massive transition that has been underway for a long time,” she said. “None of us have quite figured out ultimately what the future of journalism is going to look like but we want to be part of helping find a solution.”

Facebook has increased its focus on local news in the past year after starting off 2018 with the announcement that it was generally de-emphasizing news stories and videos in people’s feeds on the social network in favor of posts from their friends.

At the same time, though, the company has been cautiously testing out ways to boost local news stories users are interested in and initiatives to support the broader industry. It launched a feature called “Today In” that shows people local news and information , including missing-person alerts, road closures, crime reports and school announcements, expanding it to hundreds of cities around the U.S. and a few in Australia.

Facebook, social media
Silhouettes of laptop users are seen next to a screen projection of Facebook logo in this illustration. VOA

The push to support local news comes as Facebook, which is based in Menlo Park, California, tries to shake off its reputation as a hotbed for misinformation and elections-meddling. The company says users have been asking to see more local content that is relevant to them, including news stories as well as community information such as road closings during a snowstorm.

The $300 million investment includes a $5 million grant to the nonprofit Pulitzer Center to launch “Bringing Stories Home,” a fund that will provide local U.S. newsrooms with reporting grants to support coverage of local issues. There’s also a $2 million investment in Report for America as part of a partnership aiming to place 1,000 journalists in local newsrooms across the country over the next five years.

The idea behind the investments, Brown said, is to look “holistically at how a given publisher can define a business model. Facebook can’t be the only answer, the only solution — we don’t want the publisher to be dependent on Facebook.”

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Fran Wills, CEO of the Local Media Consortium, which is receiving $1 million together with the Local Media Association to help their member newsrooms develop new revenue streams, said she is optimistic the investment will help.

“I think they are recognizing that trusted, credible content is of benefit not only to local publishers but to them,” she said. (VOA)