Microsoft wants to tackle environmental issues with new AI for Earth program

As part of its extensive efforts with artificial intelligence (AI), Microsoft today announced a new "AI for Earth" program. Through the program, Microsoft is hoping to leverage AI to help solve some of the "biggest environmental challenges of our time."

More specifically, Microsoft says it will dedicate $2 million over the next fiscal year to providing access to cloud and AI computing resources, technology training, and lighthouse projects. The hope is that researchers and organizations will use these tools to solve water, agriculture, biodiversity and climate change problems.

As part of its efforts to broaden access to these tools, Microsoft says it is focusing on three pillars:

  • Access: We will improve access by making a new pool of grants available to help researchers and organizations gain access to cloud and AI computing resources. This includes access to Azure compute time and our data science virtual machine offerings on Azure. These grant applications are available today.
  • Education: We will provide new training and educational opportunities to make sure people and organizations know what AI tools are available, how to use these tools and how the tools can help meet their specific needs. Our approach will be both broad and deep, reaching many people through general session trainings as well as small group faculty summits on single issue areas and training for grantees.
  • Innovation: We also want to encourage others to innovate based on the power and potential of AI. We will partner with others on lighthouse projects that demonstrate how AI can deliver results more rapidly, accurately and efficiently. Already, we have three projects underway – one enabling land cover mapping to aid precision conservation; another that will enable smart agriculture through sensors, drones, data and broadband connectivity; and another that will test the viability of using our smart mosquito traps to remotely track and monitor species health.

There's no doubt that Microsoft — along with the rest of the tech industry — is placing a big bet on the future of AI. A major part of that push is Microsoft's goal to "democratize AI" so that might be accessible to everyone. The AI for Earth initiative is just a part of that, but Microsoft is hoping it can have a big impact on sustainability practices around the world. You can learn more about AI for Earth at Microsoft.

Dan Thorp-Lancaster

Dan Thorp-Lancaster is the former Editor-in-Chief of Windows Central. He began working with Windows Central, Android Central, and iMore as a news writer in 2014 and is obsessed with tech of all sorts. You can follow Dan on Twitter @DthorpL and Instagram @heyitsdtl