Artash Nath. Grade 11 Student. Toronto. Google DevFests are local tech conferences hosted by Google Developer Groups (GDG) around the world. It brings together developers, tech companies, students, and idea […]
Artash Nath. Grade 11 Student. Toronto.
Google DevFests are local tech conferences hosted by Google Developer Groups (GDG) around the world. It brings together developers, tech companies, students, and idea leaders so that they can learn about Google’s emerging technologies like Google Cloud Platform, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.
In 2022 the Google DevFest Toronto was held at George Brown College on 17 September 2022. It was a pleasure to be invited as a Guest Speaker at the Google Devfest to speak from my years of experience in using emerging technologies. Over 200 people from Canada and other countries attended the conference. As I am excited about taking up hard challenges and finding innovative solutions that benefit society, my presentation focused on the use of open datasets and algorithms for the public good.
Using Technology to Solve “Hard” Problems Aimed at Public Good
I took this opportunity to talk about how science, big data and technology can be used to solve “hard” problems that generate global public goods for billions of people rather than profits for a few. When we innovatively apply technology, skills, and enthusiasm to tackle ongoing and emerging challenges be it marine biodiversity protection, pandemic management, planetary defense, providing climate stability, generating green energy, global peace, and deep space exploration, then we are creating inter-generational, inter-species benefits and ensuring progress of humanity.
More than ever before we need brilliant mindsets who understand the power of technical skills they have acquired and can use them as a force for good. Click here to access my presentation.
I presented multiple case studies on how I have been using math, big data analysis, machine learning, quantum computing and robotics for:
- Predicting the risk index of an asteroid colliding with Earth (2019 Planetary Defense Conference Honorable Mention Award Winner)
- Detection of exoplanetary atmospheres using machine learning (2020 Winner of ARIEL Machine Learning Challenge)
- Creating intelligent robots by applying multimodal (vision, sound, and local sensors data) machine learning algorithms (2020 FIRST Place Award. 5th North American International Conference on Industrial Engineering and Operations Management (IEOM) Competition)
- MonitorMyLockdown.com: Monitoring the effectiveness of Covid-19 lockdowns using seismic data (2021 Winner of 2021 RISE Challenge)
- MonitorMyOcean.com: Measuring reduction in underwater noise in global oceans using open datasets (2022 Grand Award Winner at the International Science and Engineering Fair, EU Youth 4 Ocean Award, and Endorsed by UNESCO as UN Ocean Decade Activity)
Each of these projects required a year or longer for research and implementation.
From Idea Generation to Policy Shaping via Technology, Media and Collaborations
I gave the audience an overview of how I came up with these projects, and how they developed, from idea evolution to setting up of goals, methodologies, open datasets, analysis, technologies, partnerships, media and communication, outreach and policy influencing.
COVID-19 Pandemic: Lockdown Monitoring
When a project is aimed at the public good, then we need to find ways to maximize the benefits we could offer to society in an equitable, sustainable, timely, and cost-effective way. It could mean identifying problems at the right time so that their solutions can generate the maximum impact. For instance, when the Covid-19 pandemic happened, then a common policy response for many countries was lockdowns, including the closure of national borders, domestic travel, schools, and non-urgent business and workplaces. During this time, it was important to find a way to measure the effectiveness of lockdowns daily, in a way that was cheap and robust and did not impinge on the privacy of individuals. This led to the creation of the open-source www.MonitorMyLockdown.com App for Canada, which used open seismic data from 10 seismic stations operated by Natural Resources Canada to measure anthropogenic movements. As anthropogenic activities such as road traffic, trains, airplanes, and entertainment events generate seismic vibrations distinct from the natural vibration of the Earth, it was possible to create algorithms to pull out open seismic data, isolate daily anthropogenic movements, post it on a WebApp and give media and policymakers access to this analysis.
UN Ocean Decade: Ocean Monitoring
The outcomes of one research often served as an ingredient for my other projects. For instance, 2021-2030 has been declared as the UN Decade for Ocean. This means there is a lot of ongoing interest, focus and action on the topic of ocean protection and marine biodiversity conservation at different levels: from local to global.
I wanted to make a unique contribution to the UN Ocean Decade activities as I am passionate about the environment and am skilled in handling big datasets. As ocean monitoring from land, water and space generates petabytes of data each day, I was well suited to analyze this data for the public good. I selected the issue of monitoring underwater ocean noise. Ocean noise is rising due to anthropogenic activities such as shipping and offshore energy exploration and stresses out marine mammals, leading to an increase in the whale-ships collision.
My experience with measuring anthropogenic activities through seismic data signals analysis would prove very useful here. I ended up collaborating with ocean observatories around the world (US, Canada, Spain and New Zealand) to get access to their hydrophone data. I analyzed 25 years of cumulative data to create a time series of changes in underwater noise levels before and during the lockdown.
The open-source web app www.MonitorMyOcean.com powered by open data, became the tool to bring attention to the issue of rising underwater ocean noise amongst policymakers within Canada and other parts of the world. The App got endorsed by the UNESCO-IOC as a UN Ocean Decade Activity and won several other awards, including the EU Youth 4 Ocean Award, which gave me the funding to attend the 2022 UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon and present my work.
Solving Hard Problems and Working for Social Justice: An everyday effort
This is not the end of this project, as the learnings and outcomes, as well as new skills and collaborations acquired from this project, will serve as inputs to the next project I will undertake. I like to treat each day as a hackathon so that I am always prepared to provide solutions to any ongoing and emerging challenges that I engage with. Solving hard problems is an everyday effort as new ideas, partnerships, and opportunities are generated every day. They need to be seized to make a bigger impact on creating a world that can offer opportunities, social justice, and good, meaningful lives to all.
There was a flood of questions after my presentation from several young people who wanted to learn, get ideas, and embark on their own journey to change the world. I encouraged them to apply their entrepreneurial and technological skills for the public good even when they pursue for-profit activities.
I thank the Google DevFest Toronto organizers Arun Ramkumar, Vimal, and Shweta Shukla for their invitation, hospitality and support in making my participation possible. I enjoyed delivering my guest speech, fielding questions, and am grateful for their time and efforts in creating such an enthusiastic and engaged tech community in Toronto.