For years Google has warned users about natural disasters by incorporating alerts from government agencies like FEMA into apps like Maps and Search. Now, the company is making predictions of its own. As part of a partnership with the Central Water Commission of India, Google will now alert users in the country about impending floods. The service is only currently available in the Patna region, with the first alert going out earlier this month. As Google’s engineering VP Yossi Matias outlines in a blog post, these predictions are being made using a combination of machine learning, rainfall records, and flood simulations. “A variety of elements — from historical events, to river level readings, to the terrain and elevation of a specific area — feed into our models,” writes Matias. “With this information, we’ve created river flood forecasting models that can more accurately predict not only when and where a flood might occur, but the severity of the event as well.” The US tech giant announced its partnership with the Central Water Commission back in June. The two organizations agreed to share technical expertise and data to work on the predictions, with the Commission calling the collaboration a “milestone in flood management and in mitigating the flood losses.” Such warnings are particularly important in India, where 20 percent of the world’s flood-related fatalities are estimated to occur. Google already issues warnings about natural disasters via its Google Public Alert program. Alerts are layered into apps like Google Search, Maps, and Google… [Read full story]
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