Press release

20 Jul. 2021 London, GB

Award-winning AI solutions set to help improve wildfire response

LONDON, 20 JULY 2021. Following an unprecedented year for wildfires across the globe, there has never been a greater need for innovative ways to better help manage this global challenge.

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Konstantinos Makrygiannis

EY Global Consulting and Strategy and Transactions Media Relations and Social Media Associate Director

Media relations and social media professional. Can talk about planes, traveling and politics for hours on end. Aspiring jockey.

  • 2021 Better Working World Data Challenge competition saw more than 8,700 registrations from more than 115 countries
  • Winning AI models to be made available free of charge to governments and non-commercial organizations
  • Microsoft provides Azure cloud platform for participants to develop algorithms

Following an unprecedented year for wildfires across the globe, there has never been a greater need for innovative ways to better help manage this global challenge. The winning artificial intelligence (AI) models of the 2021 Better Working World Data Challenge, in collaboration with Microsoft, The Australian Country Fire Authority (CFA) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced today, aim to support that goal by bringing AI to the issue of wildfire management.

The Challenge, part of the EY commitment to innovate and use technology to address some of the world’s largest environmental and climate change problems, invited students and early-career data scientists around the world to build AI models that can map and predict the path of bushfires. The winning solutions will be field tested with fire authorities in Australia, where wildfires last year resulted in 34 fatalities and destroyed more than 46 million acres and 3,500 homes. The intellectual property will later be made available free of charge to firefighting authorities and other non-commercial organizations around the globe.

Currently, fire mapping officers receive imagery from aircrafts and use manual methods to create fire maps. The goal of the winning AI solutions is to streamline this process so officers can spend valuable time on other essential tasks. For example, where decisions are being made to prioritize regions that need to be evacuated, the winning solutions will aim to provide the right information at the right time to help make those decisions more easily and effectively.

The 2021 competition saw registrations from more than 8,700 applicants across more than 115 countries. Throughout the challenge, participants used the Microsoft Azure cloud platform along with satellite imagery provided by NASA to create the winning algorithms.

The winners were announced during a virtual award ceremony hosted by mathematician, best-selling author and award-winning science presenter, Professor Hannah Fry.

Team Firefighters scientist comprising Eric Wang, Clément Veyssière, Kevin Xu from France were awarded top spot for their fire mapping model. Tjia Johan Setiawan from Indonesia was named winner for his model predicting fire behaviour.

Beatriz Sanz Sáiz, EY Global Consulting Data and Analytics Leader, says:

“Developing and encouraging new talent is vital in applying data and artificial intelligence to solve real-world issues. The talent that has come through this year has been outstanding, and to see these solutions implemented by the Country Fire Authority – and hopefully rolled out across other regions – will be an incredibly proud moment for EY.”

Anthony Salcito, Microsoft Corporation, Vice President, Education, says: “We are proud to collaborate with EY and provide our Azure platform to participants of the Better Working World Data Challenge. As we continue to see ambitious and talented young data scientists take part, it is wonderful to know their hard work will be put to use by helping wildfire management teams to improve front-line decision-making during fire emergency responses.”

Alen Slijepcevic, AFSM, Deputy Chief Officer, The Country Fire Authority (CFA), says:

“CFA has a long history of investing in science and technology and we pride ourselves on being a progressive emergency service, so working with EY to bring thousands of the best young minds in data science together to address the challenge of bushfires was an exciting prospect. The participants’ innovative ideas will hopefully lead to improved speed and accuracy of fire mapping that will help incident management teams better understand the fire location, fire spread and potential impact, which can then be used to warn the community, allocate resources, devise suppression strategies and plan recovery activities.”

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