Channel NewsAsia: NEA and IBM tie up to develop better uses of environmental data

Channel NewsAsia reported that NEA and IBM are working on developing forecasting capabilities to manage key environmental concerns in Singapore.

NEA and IBM tie up to develop better uses of environmental data

SINGAPORE : The National Environment Agency (NEA) and IBM researchers are collaborating to develop advanced predictive capabilities.

This will help simulate, forecast, manage and report on key environmental concerns in Singapore, and enable NEA to take proactive measures to manage air quality, extreme weather, and early detection of dengue outbreaks and food poisoning incidents.

For example, the forecasting capability will help NEA better inform the public ahead of changes in air quality.

Andrew Tan, CEO of the National Environment Agency, explained: “If there is a pollution incident that affects the air quality, where will the pollutants have the biggest impact in the community, taking into account the environmental conditions in that area, taking into account the built environment in that area, can we simulate how this air quality incident spreads to these other areas?”

Janet Ang, managing director of IBM Singapore, said: “NEA is already collecting a lot of data today, be it from satellites, infrared cameras, air quality monitoring systems, weather stations, so we are able to collect all of this data and use the advanced predictive analytics to make sense out of the data, and help predict where dengue fever hotspots might be.

“To get a better understanding of the air quality and in that sense, be able to provide the information for the citizens to make better decisions.”

Predictive modelling will also help the NEA to predict wind speeds, wind direction and rainfall at a higher resolution. For example, it will even predict where high winds will cause trees to fall in an area as small as a square kilometre.

The S$13 million collaboration will see NEA and IBM’s mathematical experts using advanced analytics to turn real-time data from NEA’s environmental sensor networks into intelligence, or even predictive insight that facilitates smarter, proactive decisions.

The aim is to share the data across other government agencies to enhance operations and mitigate problems.

It is also hoped that armed with information, the public can make informed choices in their daily activities, such as avoiding establishments with cases of food poisoning or avoiding flood-hit areas.

Mr Tan said: “We can also leverage on the data that members of the public provide through social media. For example, for food poisoning incidents itself, before an incident happens, if you have members of the public who visited a restaurant or food establishment and they went home and they have a mild tummy ache, for example.

“If (a) number of people also visited the establishment and have encountered the same tummy ache, we would then be able to know that this establishment itself poses a risk and we should send our inspectors to visit this establishment before a major food poisoning incident happens.”

The aim is to share the data across other government agencies to enhance operations and mitigate problems.

The three-year collaboration was announced at the Clean Enviro Summit, where a Joint Development Agreement was signed in the presence of Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan.

Image from onlinejones


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