Dutch startups in the race for prestigious IBM Watson artificial intelligence XPRIZE

by | Jun 19, 2019 | Alumni, Earth Observation

Three award-winning Dutch entrepreneurs are joining efforts to tackle humanitarian disasters using powerful AI. Team OptOSS AI (comprising OPT/NET B.V., BlackShore and Wendy Mensink from Viridian Raven) got to the next round in the global IBM Watson AI XPRIZE competition. ‘Team Holland’ is hoping to improve the lives of more than 1 billion people over the next 5 years.

XPRIZE is a well known worldwide competition for several sectors. You can compare it to a ‘World Solar Challenge’, where several teams compete over a longer period of time building solar cars, but for AI. Where the solar panel race is often dominated by Dutch teams, in this competition there’s only one Dutch contender out of 34. But this team has some assets in hand:

First: all are renowned entrepreneurs by winning the Copernicus Masters. This is an European competition aimed at businesses using earth observation data to solve challenges.

Also: the common denominator between the contestants – their background in space tech – will make them stand out. All are alumni of ESA BIC Noordwijk, the incubation program by the European Space Agency in the Netherlands.

Their solution:

Team OptOSS AI builds a solution that strives to massively improve and empower existing disaster management efforts. The majority of critical information after large disasters arrives too late or goes unnoticed by authorities in charge of dealing with relief and rescue efforts.

Next to that: small-scale manmade and natural disasters in remote areas are often missed by analysts, because currently less than 5% of collected satellite Earth Observation Data (EOD) is analyzed by human analysts.

This is primarily due to a lack of trained experts, which is a waste of the collected EOD. The proposed solution is capable of addressing this challenge through the use of AI, which learns from past forecasting successes and failures to improve its performance and accuracy for detection and prediction of natural or man-made disasters.

How it works: the joint team submission augments OptOSS AI with human generated knowledge extracted from BlackShore’s crowdsourcing platform — Cerberus. The eventual goal is to provide automatic recognition of known patterns in EOD and increase the percentage of analyzed data by one order of magnitude.

XPRIZE history

The XPRIZE, started in 1994, offers awards within several industries with one goal: creating solutions to the world’s challenges. It has shown a lot of interest in the area of space too. It’s unique in its sense that the runtime of a prize covers several years.

The IBM Watson AI XPRIZE for instance started in 2016 – the end is only until April 1, 2020. This specific challenge is also special because the AI prize isn’t about solving one particular goal, but every contestant can have its own.

Team OptOSS AI is hoping to reach the semifinals later this year. Only 10 of the 34 teams will advance. The winner can win 3 million dollars, and overall 5 million dollars will be awarded!

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