Nerd alert: Code for disaster recovery

Join IBM’s #Bluemixathon challenge by November 11

IBM, creators of the supercomputer Watson, is offering a new challenge for “Operation Rescue and Recovery“. If you enter as an individual or team, you get access to a ridiculous array of software services that can make disaster recovery a lot less painful. We are helping them get the word out.

We think we’re pretty good at community collaboration after disasters, but there’s so much more that hasn’t been solved yet. How can we leverage technology to save lives and livelihoods after disaster strikes? How can first responders communicate if radio repeaters and boosters are damaged? How can we tap the flood of social media information across multiple platforms?


A cool set of tools

If you join the challenge, you get to play with a *really cool* set of tech tools. Here are some examples of the IBM services that you can access as part of the challenge:

Text to Speech: “The Text to Speech service processes text and natural language to generate synthesized audio output complete with appropriate cadence and intonation.”
  • Potential application: provide apps for audio emergency information; could help populations that cannot read
Language translation: “Want to dynamically translate news, patents, or conversational documents? Instantly publish content in multiple languages? Or allow your French-speaking staff to instantly send emails in English? You can with Watson Language Translation!”
  • Potential application: build app to provide news and other information in multiple languages
Visual Recognition (beta): “The Visual Recognition service enables you to analyze the visual appearance of images or video frames to understand what is happening in a scene. Using machine learning technology, semantic classifiers recognize many visual entities, such as settings, objects, and events. The service applies these pre-learned models to imagery that you have uploaded to the service and returns a score for each image for each model, indicating the likelihood of that visual element being present in the image.”
  • Potential application: used by initial first responders to quickly do backend assessment of damage from cellphone pictures; could be used by persons directly impacted by the disaster to record impact for insurance purposes or ask for help in assessing whether buildings or other assets are safe for re-entry or use
Cognitive Insights (TM): “A service provided by Cognitive Scale, Cognitive Insights are contextually relevant and personalized observations or predictions, presented with a recommendation, with the purpose of invoking user action. An insight serves to augment the knowledge, perception, and awareness of the end user, with the goal of improving their efficiency, decisions, and ability to quickly react to emerging scenarios. This service, when used in conjunction with a basis of knowledge and real-time data provided by the cognitive graph, can be used to power end-user applications.”
  • Potential applications:
    – first responder (or insurance) triage applications
    – apps for assessing progress toward recovery phase (i.e. where are supplies, where are power sources, shelter locations, etc)
    – For repeat disasters (like area prone to wildfire or hurricanes), pull from previous recovery data to refine current recovery activities


There’s a lot more, you can check it out on their website. Open to people in the USA, Canada (bar Quebec), Hong Kong, China, Mexico, Germany, Japan, India, Israel, South Korea, United Kingdom, Australia, Netherlands, and France.

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About Chris

Chris Kuryak is the Chief Operating Officer at Recovers. He holds a masters degree in Mechanical Engineering from MIT. He was the President of the MIT Film Club and on the staff of the MIT Clean Energy Prize. He worked for four years at Athena Manufacturing in Austin, Texas after receiving a B.S. from the University of Texas at Austin. He spends his free time working on independent films, playing videogames, and traveling.

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