Microsoft Invests Additional $50 Million Into 'AI For Earth' Program

Nearly six months after Microsoft launched its "AI for Earth" program that provided grants and free access to artificial intelligence technology, the company is going to add an additional $50 million in investments over the next five years.


Nov. 19 2020, Updated 9:40 p.m. ET

Back in July, Microsoft launched the AI for Earth program that would focus on using artificial intelligence to advance sustainability around the world.  Even better, this Monday, they announced that they'll be investing an additional $50 million over the next five years into the project. More specifically, the money will go toward providing this AI technology to upcoming companies.

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Brad Smith, Microsoft’s President and Chief Legal Officer, made the announcement at the One Climate Summit in Paris. In addition to further investment, they’ll be partnering with corporations as soon as possible. This isn't the only step forward they've made when it comes to the environment lately, either. For example, this news comes one month after stating that they would be cutting down on 75 percent of their own carbon emissions by 2030.

AI for Earth began with a $2 million investment from Microsoft and was used to give companies and universities grants and free use of their artificial intelligence software and Azure cloud computing. They awarded 35 grants in 10 different countries, and AI technology has already been used in products that help improve climate change, water usage, and more.

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“Our approach as a company is focused on democratizing AI so its features and capabilities can be put to use by individuals and organizations around the world to improve real-world outcomes,” Smith said in a Microsoft blog post. “There are few societal areas where AI can be more impactful than in helping address the urgent work needed to monitor, model and manage the earth’s natural systems.”

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Microsoft’s AI technology has been used in a number products already. Norway utility company Agder Energi uses the cloud to analyze data easier along the electrical grid as more consumers purchase electric vehicles and install solar panels. By doing this, they can more efficiently provide energy instead of just tacking on more capacity.

There’s also benefits on the other end of that spectrum. JTC in Singapore has optimized its electrical efficiency in 39 buildings. With help from the cloud and sensor data, they can patch up potential issues before they require a larger scale fix, and it’s already helped them save 15 percent in energy costs.

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Other projects that Microsoft has partnered with is a high-tech mosquito trap that is able to capture specific bugs carrying diseases like the Zika virus. Called Project Premonition, these devices are able to record data such as when the bug was caught and what the conditions were. Further advancements could make the device scan the insects’ blood for potential diseases. They’ve partnered with Northeastern universities at Pittsburgh and Johns Hopkins.

It’s easy to see how much the environment can benefit with the use of artificial intelligence. With that in mind, Microsoft decided to seriously step up their game to raise up AI technology even more. With projects like Project Premonition getting more money and attention, it definitely sets the stage for more innovative developments in the near future. 

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