IBM honours Edit for Humanitarian tech aid project

By Nick Batten on 9 April, 2018

A team from Bath‐based multi‐service marketing agency, Edit were recently named as finalists at the 2018 IBM Beacon Awards for a tech solution it developed to “improve humanitarian aid efforts in Africa.”

The IBM awards program celebrates the “exceptional solutions” delivered by IBM Business Partners to “transform” the way its clients and industries operate.

Edit’s Simon Peel led a team of the agency’s employees in using ‘IBM Watson Visual Recognition’ as a basis for developing a sophisticated prototype ‘image classifier’ for use by aid volunteers.

The image viewer/classifier was built in response to a common problem faced by humanitarian teams on the ground in Tanzania – their response times being hampered by a lack of accurate geographic data, especially data identifying settlements and lived-in buildings.

The project is intended to assist the charity Crowd2Map Tanzania, which operates through Missing Maps, and the Humanitarian Open Street Map Team project, to decipher areas in rural Tanzania where homesteads are likely to be present, thereby highlighting where aid or support may need to be focused.

Images will be selected from satellite photos on the MissingMaps app, before being processed by IBM Watson. Volunteers currently use the app to pre-select areas on maps that are of interest, which can take up to six weeks – this technology could reduce the process to “a matter of hours.”

According to Edit, representatives from Crowd2Map Tanzania, MissingMaps and British Red Cross have “shown an interest” in Simon’s project, with discussions now taking place to implement the solution across aid efforts.

Simon explained: “Having worked with charities in Tanzania I discovered that a number of time‐critical mapping projects don’t get completed within the required time, leaving the humanitarian teams on the ground without the local maps that they need. The aim of this solution is to dramatically speed up the mapping process so that teams can quickly provide humanitarian assistance.”

Commenting on being recognised by IBM, Simon said that he hoped this award would “raise awareness” of the solution so that it could be implemented for real.

He added: “From a professional point of view, it’s fantastic to be recognised by IBM who are holding this project up as an example of IBM Watson’s capabilities, and we’re looking to get their support to develop this further. Watson is an incredible tech platform and the possibilities it holds are almost endless.”

Damian Coverdale, chief executive of Edit said: “At Edit we work closely with IBM as an approved partner, and we’ll continue to push the boundaries of the tech at our fingertips both now and into the future.”

Edit was formed in March this year, following the merger of three St Ives Group businesses: Response One, Amaze One and Occam.