Microsoft, IBM eye technology to forecast air pollution in China

Updated: 2016-01-19 10:26


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Air pollution in China is a constant threat, and two US companies —Microsoft and IBM — are looking to use their technology expertise to provide air-quality forecasting.

Yu Zheng, a researcher at Microsoft, told China Daily that technology companies like Microsoft "can leverage their computing infrastructures, data management, analytics tools and knowledge in data science to help forecast air pollution".

Zheng said that Urban Computing, a Microsoft research theme that "aims to tackle urban challenges by using big data in cities" can "create solutions that improve the urban environment, human life quality and city operation systems". The applications range from transportation to the environment and the economy.

Jin Dong, associate director of IBM's research division, told China Daily that sensor networks and advances in the Internet of Things technology have helped companies gather pollution data and weather conditions from a variety of sources, including weather and environmental monitors, satellites and even social media.

"While other companies have a two- to three-day forecasting capability, IBM has leveraged cognitive computing technologies to develop a 10-day pollution trend forecast which is already available to its clients," Dong wrote.

"Cognitive computing systems ingest, analyze and understand this data, identifying valuable correlations and providing actionable insight to those fighting air pollution," Dong wrote. "With machine learning, the systems self-configure and constantly improve … creating unprecedented levels of accuracy."

Last year, Microsoft and IBM both signed on to work with government clients on pollution-forecasting technologies.

Microsoft has signed up to work with China's Ministry of Environmental Protection, and the environmental protection bureaus in Fujian province and Chengdu, Sichuan province. The company has also created a website called Urban Air and a smartphone app with a 48-hour air pollution forecast for cities across China.

IBM's China Research lab launched its "Green Horizons" initiative in 2014. The company's first client was the city of Beijing's Environmental Protection Bureau, but IBM has also signed deals with the city of Baoding, Hebei province and the city of Zhangjiakou, Hebei province, which will serve as one of the host sites for the 2022 Winter Olympics alongside Beijing.

"IBM has launched a multidisciplinary initiative to support China in delivering on its ambitious energy and environmental goals," Brad Gammons, general manager of IBM's Global Energy & Utilities Industry, told China Daily in an email. "The 10-year project sets out to leap beyond current global practices in three critical areas: air quality management, renewable energy forecasting and energy optimization for industry."

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