Artificial Intelligence | Emerging Trends
September 6, 2016

ITU partners with IBM Watson’s XPRIZE to promote AI innovation

Amir Banifatemi:

Data volumes are soaring to previously unimaginable heights. More data has been created in the past two years than in the entire history of humanity. 2.5 quintillion (that is, one-billion billion) bytes of data are produced every day by sensors, mobile devices, online transactions and social networking. It is predicted that, by 2020, each person on the planet will account for the creation of an average of 1.7 megabytes of new data every second.

Drawing meaningful insight from such vast amounts data is beyond our capabilities as humans, but perhaps not those of machines. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning have the potential to make sense of gargantuan datasets with multiple variables, leading us to ask: what if humans could collaborate with powerful AI technologies to collect and analyze data in the interests of solving the problems most relevant to the future of civilization on our planet?

This is the question that inspired the creation of the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE, a 5 million USD competition that aims to accelerate the development of scalable AI solutions to address humanity’s grandest challenges.

How AI can help accelerate sustainable development

Many of these grand challenges are best described by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), an ambitious set of 17 development goals to be achieved by 2030, including goals to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change.

AI innovation is certain to assist in the pursuit of the SDGs, with practical applications of machine learning, reasoning, planning and perception bearing the potential to improve the efficiency and sustainability of healthcare, education, transportation, agriculture, commerce and more.

As an example, tracking poverty in Africa is essential in collecting data to support development initiatives but collecting this data manually can be dangerous, slow and expensive. A new study building on satellite imagery and a machine-learning technique called “convolutional neural networks” provides an alternative: mapping poverty from space.

Our partnership with ITU

The global, technical nature of XPRIZE, and our mutual recognition of the importance of the competition, led us to sign a partnership agreement last month with ITU.

As the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies (ICTs), ITU will draw on its global network of ICT experts to propose judges to join the XPRIZE scientific advisory board, in addition assisting in the proposition of datasets, test environments and other resources to aid the research of XPRIZE entrants. ITU also plans to offer mentors and other technical experts to assist entrants in improving their applications and showcasing their work, and this offer of assistance will also extend to the provision of an ecosystem of technical tools and resources.

For those interested in learning more about the extraordinary potential of AI, I would encourage you to attend ITU’s series of talks on the topic to be moderated by Stephen Ibaraki at the upcoming ITU World Telecommunication Standardization Assembly in Hammamet, Tunisia; as well as at ITU Telecom World and the ITU Kaleidoscope academic conference in Bangkok, Thailand.

ITU has also created a new LinkedIn group for debate on cutting-edge AI technologies and related ICT applications and services, with the aim of promoting discussion on the future course of AI innovation and its implications for technical standardization and governance.

Past XPRIZE competitions have helped to push the boundaries of what is possible with technology, rewarding teams for coming up with new ideas in areas such as spacecraft development, unmanned ocean exploration or mapping the human genome. The USD 10 million prize for innovations in the area of private space travel, for example, led contestants to spend over 100 million USD on research and development fundamental to the creation of today’s 2 billion USD private space industry.

We hope that this competition will provide similar stimulus to AI innovation, leading to breakthroughs that positively impact people’s lives. I encourage you to register today to help shape the future of AI technology.

Watch this video to learn more about XPRIZE and past winners of the competition…


Amir Banifatemi
Mr.Banifatemi is the Prize Lead of the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE. Prior to joining XPRIZE, he began his career at the European Space Agency and then held executive positions at Airbus, AP-HP and the European Commission division for information society and media. He managed two venture capital funds and contributed to the formation of more than 10 startups with emphasis on Predictive Technologies, IoT, and Healthcare.
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ITU partners with IBM Watson’s XPRIZE to promote AI innovation

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