PRESS-NEWS.org - Press Release Distribution
FREE PRESS RELEASES DISTRIBUTION

A machine learning breakthrough: using satellite images to improve human lives

Berkeley-based project could support action worldwide on climate, health and poverty

A machine learning breakthrough: using satellite images to improve human lives
2021-07-20
(Press-News.org) Berkeley -- More than 700 imaging satellites are orbiting the earth, and every day they beam vast oceans of information -- including data that reflects climate change, health and poverty -- to databases on the ground. There's just one problem: While the geospatial data could help researchers and policymakers address critical challenges, only those with considerable wealth and expertise can access it.

Now, a team based at the University of California, Berkeley, has devised a machine learning system to tap the problem-solving potential of satellite imaging, using low-cost, easy-to-use technology that could bring access and analytical power to researchers and governments worldwide. The study, "A generalizable and accessible approach to machine learning with global satellite imagery," was published today (Tuesday, July 20) in the journal Nature Communications.

"Satellite images contain an incredible amount of data about the world, but the trick is how to translate the data into usable insights without having a human comb through every single image," said co-author Esther Rolf, a final-year Ph.D. student in computer science. "We designed our system for accessibility, so that one person should be able to run it on a laptop, without specialized training, to address their local problems."

"We're entering a regime in which our actions are having truly global impact," said co-author Solomon Hsiang, director of the Global Policy Lab at the Goldman School of Public Policy. "Things are moving faster than they've ever moved in the past. We're changing resource allocations faster than ever. We're transforming the planet. That requires a more responsive management system that is able to see these things happen, so that we can respond in a timely, effective way."

The project was a collaboration between the Global Policy Lab, which Hsiang directs, and Benjamin Recht's research team in the department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences. Other co-authors are Berkeley Ph.D. graduates Tamma Carleton, now at University of California, Santa Barbara; Jonathan Proctor, now at Harvard's Center for the Environment and Data Science Initiative; Ian Bolliger, now at the Rhodium Group; and Vaishaal Shankar, now at Amazon; and Berkeley Ph.D. student Miyabi Ishihara.

All of them were at Berkeley when the project began. Their collaboration has been remarkable for bringing together disciplines that often look at the world in different ways and speak different languages: computer science, environmental and climate science, statistics, economics and public policy.

But they have been guided by a common interest in creating an open access tool that democratizes the power of technology, making it usable even by communities and countries that lack resources and advanced technical skill. "It's like Ford's Model T, but with machine learning and satellites," Hsiang said. "It's cheap enough that everyone can now access this new technology."

--MOSAIKS: Improving lives, protecting the planet--

The system that emerged from the Berkeley-based research is called MOSAIKS, short for Multi-Task Observation using Satellite Imagery & Kitchen Sinks. It ultimately could have the power to analyze hundreds of variables drawn from satellite data -- from soil and water conditions to housing, health and poverty -- at a global scale.

The research paper details how MOSAIKS was able to replicate with reasonable accuracy reports prepared at great cost by the U.S. Census Bureau. It also has enormous potential in addressing development challenges in low-income countries and to help scientists and policymakers understand big-picture environmental change.

"Climate change is diffuse and difficult to see at any one location, but when you step back and look at the broad scale, you really see what is going on around the planet," said Hsiang, who also serves as co-director of the multi-institution Climate Impact Lab.

For example, he said, the satellite data could give researchers deep new insights into expansive rangeland areas such as the Great Plains in the U.S. and the Sahel in Africa, or into areas such as Greenland or Antarctica that may be shedding icebergs as temperatures rise.

"These areas are so large, and to have people sitting there and looking at pictures and counting icebergs is really inefficient," Hsiang explained. But with MOSAIKS, he said, "you could automate that and track whether these glaciers are actually disintegrating faster, or whether this has been happening all along."

For a government in the developing world, the technology could help guide even routine decisions, such as where to build roads.

"A government wants to build roads where the most people are and the most economic activity is," Hsiang said. "You might want to know which community is underserved, or the condition of existing infrastructure in a community. But often it's very difficult to get that information."

--The challenge: Organizing trillions of bytes of raw satellite data--

The growing fleet of imaging satellites beam data back to Earth 24/7 -- some 80 terabytes every day, according to the research, a number certain to grow in coming years.

But often, imaging satellites are built to capture information on narrow topics -- supplies of fresh water, for example, or the condition of agricultural soils. And the data doesn't arrive as neat, orderly images, like a snapshots from a photo shop. It's raw data, a mass of binary information. Researchers who access the data have to know what they're looking for.

Merely storing so many terabytes of data requires a huge investment. Distilling the layers of data embedded in the images requires additional computing power and advanced human expertise to tease out strands of information that are coherent and useful to other researchers, policymakers or funding agencies.

Inevitably, exploiting satellite images is largely limited to scholars or agencies in wealthy nations, Rolf and Hsiang said.

"If you're an elite professor, you can get someone to build your satellite for you," said Hsiang. "But there's no way that a conservation agency in Kenya is going to be able to access the technology and the experts to do this work.

"We wanted to find a way to empower them. We decided to come up with a Swiss Army Knife -- a practical tool that everyone can access."

--Like Google for satellite imagery, sort of--

Especially in low-income countries, one dimension of poverty is a poverty of data. But even communities in the U.S. and other developed countries usually don't have ready access to geospatial data in a convenient, usable format for addressing local challenges.

Machine learning opens the door to solutions.

In a general sense, machine learning refers to computer systems that use algorithms and statistical modeling to learn on their own, without step-by-step human intervention. What the new research describes is a system that can assemble data delivered by many satellites and organize it in ways that are accessible and useful.

There are precedents for such systems: Google Earth Engine and Microsoft's Planetary Computer are both platforms for accessing and analyzing global geospatial data, with a focus on conservation. But, Rolf said, even with these technologies, considerable expertise is often required to convert the data into new insights.

The goal of MOSAIKS is not to develop more complex machine learning systems, Rolf said. Rather, its innovation is in making satellite data widely useable for addressing global challenges. The team did this by making the algorithms radically simpler and more efficient.

MOSAIKS starts with learning to recognize minuscule patterns in the images -- Hsiang compares it to a game of Scrabble, in which the algorithm learns to recognize each letter. In this case, however, the tiles are minuscule pieces of satellite image, 3 pixels by 3 pixels.

But MOSAIKS doesn't conclude "this is a tree" or "this is pavement." Instead, it recognizes patterns and groups them together, said Proctor. It learns to recognize similar patterns in different parts of the world.

When thousands of terabytes from hundreds of sources are analyzed and organized, researchers can choose a village or a country or a region and draw out organized data that can touch on themes as varied as soil moisture, health conditions, human migration and home values.

In a sense, Hsiang said, MOSAIKS could do for satellite databases what Google in the early days did for the Internet: map the data, make it accessible and user-friendly at low cost, and perhaps make it searchable. But Rolf, a machine learning scholar based in the Berkeley Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences department, said the Google comparison goes only so far.

MOSAIKS "is about translating an unwieldy amount of data into usable information," she explained. "Maybe a better analogy would be that the system takes very dense information -- say, a very large article -- and produces a summary."

--Creating a living atlas of global data--

Both Hsiang and Rolf see the potential for MOSAIKS to evolve in powerful and elegant directions.

Hsiang imagines the data being collected into computer-based, continually evolving atlases. Turn to any given "page," and a user could access broad, deep data about conditions in a country or a region.

Rolf envisions a system that can take the stream of data from humanity's fleet of imaging satellites and remote sensors and transform it into a flowing, real-time portrait of Earth and its inhabitants, continually in a state of change. We could see the past and the present, and so discern emerging challenges and address them.

"We've sent so much stuff to space," Hsiang says. "It's an amazing achievement. But we can get a lot more bang for our buck for all of this data that we're already pulling down. Let's let the world use it in a useful way. Let's use it for good."

INFORMATION:


[Attachments] See images for this press release:
A machine learning breakthrough: using satellite images to improve human lives

ELSE PRESS RELEASES FROM THIS DATE:

Millions of dollars saved when scheduled travel providers adapt to on-demand scheduling

2021-07-20
CATONSVILLE, MD, July 20, 2021 - Uber and Lyft are popular on-demand ways to travel, but does that mean trains and buses are a thing of the past? Travelers prefer different modes of transportation at different times. So how can all these modes co-exist and do so successfully? New research in the INFORMS Journal Transportation Science has created a model and an algorithm to redistribute transit resources based on commuter preferences resulting in millions in savings. "Based on case study experiments in New York City, our optimized transit schedules consistently lead to 0.4%-3% system-wide cost reduction. This amounts to rush hour savings of millions of dollars per day, while simultaneously reducing costs to passengers and transportation service ...

New method for uninterrupted monitoring of solid-state milling reactions

New method for uninterrupted monitoring of solid-state milling reactions
2021-07-20
A team of chemists from the Croatian Ruđer Bošković Institute (RBI) described a new, easy-to-use method for uninterrupted monitoring of mechanochemical reactions. These reactions are conducted in closed milling devices, so in order to monitor the reaction one has to open the reaction vessel, thus interfering with the process. The new method uses Raman spectroscopy to get deeper insight into solid-state milling reactions, without the usual interruption of the chemical reaction process. Mechanochemical synthesis by milling is used today to prepare all ...

Public health summer program increases STEM career interests in high schoolers

2021-07-20
High school students who participated in summer programs about public health increased their interest in pursuing careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), according to a Rutgers study. Published in the journalPedagogy in Health Promotion, the study explored whether increasing public health awareness would motivate high school students to pursue public health careers. Researchers found that the summer program, Public Health: Outbreaks, Communities, and Urban Studies (PHocus) offered in 2018 and 2019 increased the students' knowledge in public health, epidemiology, urban public health and global public health. "Including interdisciplinary, authentic ...

Mayo research provides insights into high-risk younger demographics for severe COVID-19

2021-07-20
ROCHESTER, Minn. ? Using data from 9,859 COVID-19 infections, Mayo Clinic researchers have new insights into risk factors for younger populations, some of which differ significantly from their older counterparts. People younger than 45 had a greater than threefold increased risk of severe infection if they had cancer or heart disease, or blood, neurologic or endocrine disorders, the research found. These associations were weaker in older age groups. The study was published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings. The research team studied people living in a 27-county region of Southeast Minnesota and West Central Wisconsin surrounding Mayo Clinic in Rochester diagnosed with COVID-19 between March and ...

Coffee doesn't raise your risk for heart rhythm problems

2021-07-20
In the largest study of its kind, an investigation by UC San Francisco has found no evidence that moderate coffee consumption can cause cardiac arrhythmia. In fact, each additional daily cup of coffee consumed among several hundred thousand individuals was associated with a 3 percent lower risk of any arrhythmia occurring, including atrial fibrillation, premature ventricular contractions, or other common heart conditions, the researchers report. The study included a four-year follow up. The paper is published July 19, 2021, in JAMA Internal Medicine. "Coffee is the primary source of caffeine for most people, and it has a reputation for causing or exacerbating arrhythmias," said senior and corresponding author Gregory Marcus, MD, professor ...

New algorithm may help autonomous vehicles navigate narrow, crowded streets

New algorithm may help autonomous vehicles navigate narrow, crowded streets
2021-07-20
It is a scenario familiar to anyone who has driven down a crowded, narrow street. Parked cars line both sides, and there isn't enough space for vehicles traveling in both directions to pass each other. One has to duck into a gap in the parked cars or slow and pull over as far as possible for the other to squeeze by. Drivers find a way to negotiate this, but not without close calls and frustration. Programming an autonomous vehicle (AV) to do the same -- without a human behind the wheel or knowledge of what the other driver might do -- presented a unique challenge ...

Renewable energies: No wind turbine disturbing the scenery

Renewable energies: No wind turbine disturbing the scenery
2021-07-20
Wind energy is of outstanding importance to the energy transition in Germany. According to the Federal Statistical Office, its share in total gross electricity production of about 24% is far higher than those of all other renewable energy sources. "To reach our climate goals, it is important to further expand these capacities and to replace as much coal-based power as possible," says Professor Wolf Fichtner from KIT's Institute for Industrial Production (IIP). "However, there is considerable resistance, especially in beautiful landscapes." A team of researchers from KIT, the University of Aberdeen, and the Technical University of Denmark has now calculated what this means for the costs ...

Solar cells: Layer of three crystals produces a thousand times more power

2021-07-20
The photovoltaic effect of ferroelectric crystals can be increased by a factor of 1,000 if three different materials are arranged periodically in a lattice. This has been revealed in a study by researchers at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU). They achieved this by creating crystalline layers of barium titanate, strontium titanate and calcium titanate which they alternately placed on top of one another. Their findings, which could significantly increase the efficiency of solar cells, were published in the journal Science Advances. electric crystals do not require a so-called pn junction to create the photovoltaic effect, in other words, no positively and negatively doped layers. This makes it much easier to produce ...

Study identifies MET amplification as driver for some non-small cell lung cancers

Study identifies MET amplification as driver for some non-small cell lung cancers
2021-07-20
A study led by D. Ross Camidge, MD, PhD, director of thoracic oncology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and CU Cancer Center member, has helped to define MET amplification as a rare but potentially actionable driver for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Camidge says many of the major developments in the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer have come from defining molecularly specific subsets of the disease for which researchers have been able to develop targeted treatments. Until now, all of these subsets have been based on either genetic mutations or gene rearrangements ...

Revealing the secrets of cell competition

Revealing the secrets of cell competition
2021-07-20
As multicellular life relies on cell-cell interactions, it is not surprising that this is not always peaceful: cells with higher fitness eliminate cells with lower fitness through cell competition. Cell competition has emerged as a quality control mechanism and occurs when cells differ, genetically or otherwise, from each other. In mammals, the process of cell competition has been observed e.g., in cancer, during organ homeostasis, and during development as a process to select the fittest cells in the embryo and the adult. However, the features that distinguish "winner" from "loser" cells and whether there are key determinants for cell competition in various biological ...

LAST 30 PRESS RELEASES:

Scientists model 'true prevalence' of COVID-19 throughout pandemic

New breakthrough to help immune systems in the fight against cancer

Through the thin-film glass, researchers spot a new liquid phase

Administering opioids to pregnant mice alters behavior and gene expression in offspring

Brain's 'memory center' needed to recognize image sequences but not single sights

Safety of second dose of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines after first-dose allergic reactions

Changes in disparities in access to care, health after Medicare eligibility

Use of high-risk medications among lonely older adults

65+ and lonely? Don't talk to your doctor about another prescription

Exosome formulation developed to deliver antibodies for choroidal neovascularization therapy

Second COVID-19 mRNA vaccine dose found safe following allergic reactions to first dose

Plant root-associated bacteria preferentially colonize their native host-plant roots

Rare inherited variants in previously unsuspected genes may confer significant risk for autism

International experts call for a unified public health response to NAFLD and NASH epidemic

International collaboration of scientists rewrite the rulebook of flowering plant genetics

Improving air quality reduces dementia risk, multiple studies suggest

Misplaced trust: When trust in science fosters pseudoscience

Two types of blood pressure meds prevent heart events equally, but side effects differ

New statement provides path to include ethnicity, ancestry, race in genomic research

Among effective antihypertensive drugs, less popular choice is slightly safer

Juicy past of favorite Okinawan fruit revealed

Anticipate a resurgence of respiratory viruses in young children

Anxiety, depression, burnout rising as college students prepare to return to campus

Goal-setting and positive parent-child relationships reduce risk of youth vaping

New research identifies cancer types with little survival improvements in adolescents and young adul

Oncotarget: Replication-stress sensitivity in breast cancer cells

Oncotarget: TERT and its binding protein: overexpression of GABPA/B in gliomas

Development of a novel technology to check body temperature with smartphone camera

The mechanics of puncture finally explained

Extreme heat, dry summers main cause of tree death in Colorado's subalpine forests

[Press-News.org] A machine learning breakthrough: using satellite images to improve human lives
Berkeley-based project could support action worldwide on climate, health and poverty