IBM is hoping a combination of IoT, AI and cloud can help stop the Zika epidemic in its tracks.
IBM has thrown its vast resources behind the quest to track, monitor and hopefully eradicate the Zika virus. It will supply technology and work to the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), a Brazilian science and technology organisation, to help track the spread of the disease.
The virus is highly contagious with no known cure or vaccine. It is spreading Brazil quickly where the Olympic Games start next week.
Big Blue is offering its cloud resources and IoT network in order to monitor the disease. It plans to plans to donate a one-year subscription feed of highly local, daily rainfall, average temperature and relative humidity data from The Weather Company to the US Fund for UNICEF.
Its intention is for UNICEF to use the information from The Weather Company, an IBM business, to better understand patterns of the spread of Zika, with a special focus on Brazil.
IBM data points
Data from the platform will allow UNICEF and other agencies to quickly understand an increasingly complex world. Rainfall, temperature and humidity play key roles in the development of Aedes aegypti larvae, the primary mosquito that carries Zika. Over 20,000 of these weather-related data points spread across Brazil can provide daily information used to help estimate the larvae’s proliferation.
Other Zika-related efforts supported by IBM include the OpenZika project running on IBM’s World Community Grid, a virtual, crowdsourced supercomputer that IBM created. A free app is available for download that automatically provides to researchers the unused computing power of volunteers’ computers or Android devices.
Scientists in Brazil and the US now have the ability to screen millions of chemical compounds to identify candidates for treatments to combat the Zika virus. In the first two months of the study, more than 50,000 volunteers from all over the world have enrolled and donated the equivalent of over 4,000 years of computing time and performed more than 20,000 virtual experiments, saving researchers $1.5 million in equivalent computing resources.
Hackathon and Bluemix
The firm is also supporting a hackathon at Fiocruz, Brazil this autumn at which 70 approximately software developers will be challenged to develop health apps for smartphones. These might include apps that enable people to more easily identify or report mosquito larvae or update public health officials on a local virus outbreak, and other issues related to health. IBM will help to identify appropriate software programmers and will provide its Bluemix cloud technology used for developing the applications.
Professor Mark Skilton of Warwick Business School told Internet of Business that the model being applied here by IBM in the Internet of Things is to leverage the large-scale connectivity and computing power to track and analyse the virus.
“The IoT is a combination of being able to capture data from specific locations and to be able to analyse and respond in real-time and in better insight and intelligence,” he said.
“In the case of the IBM initiative to help the Zika virus this is on a number of fronts. Initially IBM has been running the “Open Zika “ project on the back of its open source World computing grid.
This is enabling many people to connect and donate their mobile devices to help run software programs to analyse simulation model being led by several research consortiums.
“The key aim is to speed up the race to find vaccines to fight Zika which currently has no known cure for it. This requires huge computing model resources that this crowd sourced cloud computing resource is assisting in,” he added.