5 Ways Artificial Intelligence is Helping to Save Our Planet

It takes a high level of data analysis to predict the effects of climate change and the implications of our actions to stop and adapt to it. Often, scientists have terabytes of data, but not the computing power to make sense of climate issues like hurricanes. But this level of analysis is possible with artificial intelligence (AI). In fact, AI may be the best weapon we have to combat and adapt to the effects of climate change. That’s because it can analyze large chunks of data from past events and make accurate predictions about future ones.

Today, AI is helping to monitor and predict everything from glacier retreat to commercial waste management. As innovations in “deep learning” march on, AI’s prescience will help inform scientists about climate impacts and policymakers on the most prudent steps for adaptation. Here are some critical ways AI is helping to preserve our planet.

1. Smarter Home Energy Use

AI is helping save the planet by assisting homeowners through energy-efficient smart homes. The Internet of Things and today’s “smart devices” let homeowners control their energy use and lower their monthly bills. Smart thermostats can adjust temperature settings for specific rooms in a house. Smart water sprinklers can change water usage based on weather forecasts. And smart security systems can cut down on false alarms calls — so fewer gas-guzzling trips by first responders. The automation, connection, and prediction power built into these smart devices allow homeowners to lower their carbon footprint.

smart-homes

But smart energy use is not just about conservation — it’s also about the best time to use energy. Peak energy hours like evenings are higher-demand, higher-cost times. Smart devices can automate energy use for low-demand hours. Plus, off-peak times like mid-day are when alternative energy sources like solar and wind contribute the most. Therefore, smart technology promotes renewable energy.

2. Soil Conservation

Soil degradation is a problem often overlooked in the media. But it has serious consequences for humanity’s ability to adapt to and survive climate change. It takes a millennium to generate only three centimeters of topsoil, and soil degradation is happening at a much faster rate. Chemicals, deforestation, erosion, and global warming are major contributors to soil degradation. And if the current rate of degradation continues, the planet’s farmable land could disappear within 60 years, according to United Nations officials.

sustainable agriculture

But farmers and scientists are using AI to help conserve the soil by marshaling complex algorithms along with robots and drones to detect erosion and monitor soil health. For example, one company has developed an agricultural app to help farmers identify nutrient deficiencies within their soil. And farmers are using machine learning to predict the best times to plant, irrigate, and harvest crops based on weather changes. Accurate predictions mean less need for pesticides and fertilizers, which degrade the soil.

3. Exploring and Protecting Oceans

Scientists watch and test the health of oceans because they’re the best indicators of Earth’s health. Microplastics, increased CO2 levels, and ocean acidification are changing the surface of the planet. The key to protecting oceans is exploring and monitoring them for changes. Climate scientists and oceanographers are using AI technology to drive autonomous marine vehicles to the deepest depths. And some companies are developing autonomous garbage collection systems that would help remove plastics and floating debris.

garbage in ocean

Another emerging technology — blockchain — is helping to track fishing and identify illegal behavior. Blockchain is the same technology that powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. The technology acts as a transparent ledger for transactions. Blockchain is a decentralized system, which means it operates autonomously and isn’t subject to misuse and abuse. Trust is critical to international treaties that regulate fishing quotas and manage overfishing. Blockchain technology can record each fish (e.g., tuna) with a scannable code uploaded to the ledger. Therefore, retailers, customers, and regulators can confirm that fish are legally caught.

4. Air Pollution Detection

AI is becoming an invaluable tool for tracking our air quality and identifying sources of pollution. During accidental emissions, city air quality officials need to identify and respond quickly. Some European cities are using leak sensors and AI to help create emission maps, predict mortality rates, and estimate financial costs of emergency responses. These data points give decision makers a more accurate view of the air pollution along with more targeted remediation.

air-pollution-repurcussions

In addition to monitoring air pollution, AI is also cutting tailpipe emissions. AI manages self-driving cars to make getting from point A-to-B more efficient. Self-driving automobiles can cut oil consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 2% to 4% annually. AI and global positioning systems operating driverless tractor-trailer rigs will make deliveries non-stop, faster, and less costly to the planet. Complex algorithms, sensors, and traffic lights are directing traffic flow in some cities. These systems are currently reducing travel time by 25%, braking by 30%, and idling time by 40%.

5. Evaluating the Efficacy of Action

AI is bringing powerful ways to monitor and predict threats to our environment. Synthetic thinking adds value for scientists, officials, and policymakers by giving them deeper looks into current environmental situations. Perhaps, more than anything, AI’s biggest potential lies in figuring out where solutions hit the mark and where they miss. It’s counterproductive to invest resources and time into bad solutions. But that’s highly likely, given the complexity of climate change and adaptation.

Where do we invest? Which coastline needs saving the most? What communities are at a higher risk? With dwindling resources and bigger dangers, we will face some hard decisions in the future about where to deploy our efforts. At some point, those decisions will mean life or death. We will need quick thinking and accurate data. Evaluating our options and predicting their implications is where AI will bring the most value.

6 Safety Management Tips For Dam Owners

Humans have increasingly become dependent on electricity, which is due in no small part to the many advances in technology. From healthcare and commerce to the way people communicate with each other, everything that makes life livable now requires electrical power.

With all the growing demand for electricity, government and business leaders are continually pressured by the public to find ways to generate more power while keeping the planet safe. Renewable energy is the buzzword for finding the balance between power generation and giving the environment a much-needed TLC (tender loving care).

That said, water is one of the most common sources of renewable energy – it generates hydroelectricity, which makes up around 44% of renewable energy in the U.S. alone. Harvesting hydropower involves harnessing the flow of water. In other words, hydropower plants require dams to be built to hold and control the water that’ll turn the generators or turbines, generating electricity.

But hydropower is just one part of the equation. Water is essential for humans, without which life won’t even be possible. From hydropower to drinking water supply, dams will continue to be vital for humanity’s survival. Owners must manage their dams effectively to keep them safe and working. Doing so can prevent risks that may result in loss of life and property.

dam-safety-management

Challenges Posed By Dams

Most dams used for hydropower generation and water supply are man-made–they’re made up of concrete. Hence, there are structural and stability challenges that need to be solved. You don’t need to see a movie just to know what might happen if a dam is breached.

 There was a time when operators relied on visual inspection, photos, and interpretation by engineers to analyze a dam’s safety levels. Today, there are state-of-the-art monitoring tools to help dam operators. Hence, there are now advanced solutions that allow dam owners to keep the structural integrity in check.

Take the case of Hunter Water Grahamstown Dam in Australia. This dam is designed to provide a drinking water supply and recycled water service to an area with approximately 600,000 people. As a storage dam, it constantly presents challenges that can compromise its structural integrity.

Using modern dam monitoring tools, Grahamstown Dam owners can effectively manage the dam’s integrity in a remote setting. In turn, this allows nearby residents to sleep soundly at night. The secret lies in using AI technology, such as Rezatec’s Dam Monitoring solution, to remotely churn out geospatial data that tracks everything–from ground movements to moisture levels. Nothing is left to chance or open interpretation. Also, fewer visual inspections are now required.

Dam Safety Management Tips

Indeed, humans have completely changed the way water is stored–whether for drinking or generating power. In a study aimed at monitoring and taking a closer look at the changing levels of global freshwater sources, researchers used NASA’s satellite and found that humans are now responsible for 57% of the planet’s seasonal water storage, which is happening in reservoirs and dams.

With the ever-increasing world population, it’s logical for one to think that more reservoirs and dams will be built in the foreseeable future. Whether it’s for drinking or harnessing hydropower, dams are here to stay. Owners and operators must learn to manage their dams dynamically.

Taking a cue from what operators did in managing the safety of the Grahamstown Dam, here are some tips on how to keep dams safe and functioning properly for years to come.

1. Create A Dam’s Risk Profile

No dam is perfect. For one, there’s always a trade-off among costs, location, and capacity when designing and building dams. It’s left to the owners to make the best out of the dams they’re managing. In a bid to reduce risks, owners should always know the status of their dams. For one, they should define risk areas and be aware of the dam’s weaknesses.

By creating a dam’s risk profile, managers won’t be caught unaware should disasters occur. For instance, if a barrier was designed to withstand a 10-magnitude earthquake, then a reading of 11 on the Richter scale should put workers on full alert even if the dam isn’t breached. Emergency inspections and responses should also be triggered.

2. Effective Dam Monitoring In Place

Dams, like the one in Grahamstown, require continued monitoring. There’s no shortcut to knowing or tracking the structural integrity of a dam except via monitoring.

In the past, owners relied on photography and visual inspections. The problem was the data gathered could be biased and were open to misinterpretation. Hence, it would be best to adopt AI-based solutions to ensure accurate monitoring data.

3. Ready Access To Construction Documentation

Dams are big structures and they’re often made up of different segments and materials. Making things more complicated is the fact that no two dams are the same–each has its own design features.

When managing a dam, the people responsible for it should have access to the dam’s design and construction blueprint. By doing so, managers will be less likely to do things that can compromise the dam’s structure and functionality.

4. Prioritize Incident Reports

Dam workers must be required to report all incidents that occur, including emergencies and operational shutdowns. Such reports will keep the management in the loop and enable key players to recommend a plan of action to prevent such incidents from happening again.

dam safety guide

5. Operations And Safety Manuals At The Ready

Dams are run by different people working in various shifts. While training workshops are essential for new and experienced workers, people tend to forget what they’re trained for. It’s crucial to have operations and safety manuals readily accessible to ensure that everyone is on the same page while operating the dam. This way, workers won’t be left guessing on what to do in case emergencies happen.

6. Multi-discipline Management Approach

While new technologies allow remote, scalable, and cost-effective dam management, it’s still vital to have human operators and engineers tracking changes or investigating anomalies. Environmental sciences should work with soil engineering and other disciplines. AI should also work with good old-fashioned human insights.

By combining multiple disciplines, dam owners will be more confident in reducing risks and meeting regulatory requirements across different sectors.

Conclusion

Dams are vital for human survival. They can be harnessed to provide water supply and electricity. Due to this, expect that there will be more dams built in the foreseeable future.

With that in mind, owners and operators should learn how to keep dams safe and effective to prevent loss of life and property.