India: Google now ready to give public ‘flood alerts’
By Anil Sasi
Tech giant Google is scaling up its learnings from a pilot project in Patna to provide flood alerts in simple text format to people in many parts of the country using sophisticated machine learning techniques. The Union Ministry of Water Resources provides Google with data on river water levels for preparing such public alerts.
In the pilot, implemented in partnership with the Central Water Commission in India, Google showed, via Public Alerts, a map that included areas designated as ‘high risk’ ‘medium risk’ and ‘low risk’. The pilot used an operational hydro-dynamic model, with the explicit goal of preparing the ground for integrating Machine Learning (ML) models into the process. Alerts were then sent out to individuals in the catchment area in the form of maps and Android notifications.
A Union Ministry for Water Resources official said the Government hopes the collaboration with Google will help in flood management efforts. “The initiative (with Google) could assist crisis management agencies to deal with extreme hydrological events in a better manner,” the official said. Google says its ML-based modeling provides a wide range of improvements over the traditional physics-based models. ML is primed to be advantageous in this scenario, with some models often exceeding human experts in complex high-dimensional scenarios, and the framework of transfer or multitask learning is an appealing solution for leveraging local signals to achieve improved global performance.”
“First, it can enable incorporating additional types of data, details and nuances, that are either neglected by physics-based models or modeled inaccurately. Second, it enables much more efficient models, critical for scaling this effort across India and eventually globally. Finally, it enables automating many of the processes that need to be implemented manually using existing methods – which drastically reduces costs and allows us to scale,” [Sella Nevo, from Google’s Research and Machine Intelligence team] said.