As part of Google’s AI Impact Challenge, the American University of Beirut (AUB) was selected amongst 2,600 global organizations, from 119 countries, and awarded USD1 million. The Google AI Impact Challenge called for ideas from nonprofit organizations, social enterprises and research institutions globally, to help address societal challenges, using AI. Based on the proposal submitted, AUB’s innovative project has placed Lebanon on the global map. The expert team is set to develop a water management project with the funds received.
AUB is one of only 20 organizations around the world who won a grant. AUB will use the funding to improve irrigation water management practices through machine learning (ML) models in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Their role will include enhancing thermal satellite imagery, gathering local weather data and obtaining agricultural data from farmers on water consumption for crops. AUB’s main goal is to develop a technology to enhance irrigation practices, working closely with farmers. Once complete, the technology will provide real-time water-use data predictions to farmers, to aid them in making better informed irrigation decisions and to ultimately conserve water.
According to AUB’s website, the team spearheading this project includes: “Professors Fatima Abu Salem (Computer Science , Faculty of Arts and Sciences) who will lead the AI and ML component of the project, Hadi Jaafar (Agriculture, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences) who will lead the project overall as well as the remote sensing and smart irrigation component, Samer Kharroubi (Nutrition, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences) who will lead the statistical modeling and analysis component, and Mazen Saghir (Electrical and Computer Engineering, Maroun Semaan Faculty of Engineering and Architecture) who will lead the embedded systems and Internet of Things component.”
Google was on the search for socially useful and scalable applications that utilize AI and allocated USD25 million, to different organizations. Once the projects are completed and tested, they will be shared globally, through open-source code.
“Obtaining this grant is an affirmation of the quality of our faculty members and of AUB. It also allows us to explore the positive impact of AI at a time when there is a great deal of negative press on AI and its impact on jobs, privacy, and other matters," said Dr. Fadlo Khuri, President of AUB.
The Google AI Impact Challenge will also grant winners access to Google’s expertise, and receive coaching from Google’s AI experts. AUB’s team of Professors behind the project have already traveled to San Francisco, with the 19 other chosen organizations, to begin executing the project. A six month program, until November 2019, will pair startup specialists from Google’s Launchpad Accelerator, Google’s AI experts and project managers with each organization, for coaching and mentorship sessions. Each organization will also have to set their OKRs (objectives and key results) to set the roadmap to complete the project.
The other winners of the Google AI Impact Challenge include: