When an major earthquake strikes a city, it's a desperate challenge for rescue teams to figure out which neighborhoods have suffered the worst damage, and where injured people might be trapped under the rubble.
But a California startup plans to use a new tool that could be the hottest thing since rescue dogs - artificial intelligence software.
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A Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup called OneConcern gathers publicly available data on the age, design and materials used in buildings, adds census data on the population and uses that information to develop an algorithm (an equation) that understands the ways that quakes can damage structures, according to a recent article in New Scientist.
In the event of a quake, seismic information about the event would be added, and the software would predict how various buildings would respond to the shock waves.
The software would create a map that indicates the location of the buildings are most likely to be damaged, which first responders could use in deciding which areas to prioritize.
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"We know the population of every block," OneConcern co-founder Ahmad Wani told New Scientist. "We multiply the damage and population to get a response priority. So a school with 100 children - it makes more sense to go there."
San Mateo, Calif. emergency officials are currently putting the software through an experimental trial.
AI clearly has a growing usefulness when it comes to earthquakes. In April, after a devastating quake struck Nepal, the UN Office of Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs utilized an AI program to analyze information generated by mobile phones, satellites, and social media, in an effort to direct rescuers, according to an article in Foreign Affairs magazine.