Energy Dept. looks for AI impact

Two recently-announced artificial intelligence collaborations show how the technology can affect real world problems, according to the head of the Energy Department's AI office.

Royalty-free stock photo ID: 641963182 By 4kclips Department of Energy in Washington - WASHINGTON DC / COLUMBIA - APRIL 7, 2017

The Department of Energy's year-old artificial intelligence
technology office is looking for collaborative projects with industry and other agencies that will have dramatic, real world impact, according to its director.

The DOE's Artificial Intelligence and Technology Office (AITO), said its Director Cheryl Ingstad, is looking for partnerships that can "save lives" by leveraging the agency's vast and varied AI resources.

Rick Perry stood up AITO in Sept, 2019 when he led the department, as part of President Donald Trump's call for a national AI strategy. AITO is the coordinating hub for AI work being done across the agency's considerable enterprise, including its national laboratories.

DOE's most recent announcements that team with Microsoft for emergency responder apps, as well as a collaboration with Health and Human Services and the Department of Veterans Affairs to share health data, are both examples of how the agency can bring the technology to bear in critical ways.

In July, DOE announced the COVID-19 Insights Partnership with HHS and the VA. The project shows "unprecedented data sharing" among agencies for a shared goal of using data and technology to fight the virus, said Ingstad during an ATARC webcast on Aug. 20.

In early August, DOE announced the First Five Consortium with Microsoft, the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Defense Department's Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC). The consortium's aim is to develop data-based applications that can assist first responders.

Both projects, said Ingstad, can show how DOE can allow joint access to its vast research and development capabilities across its operations to boost AI.

The JAIC is currently scaling a prototype that uses deep learning algorithms to provide near real-time data to improve first responders' decision making in a host of dire situations, according to DOE. With AI, first responders battling wildfires currently raging in California, hurricanes and other natural disasters, said Ingstad, could have better and more immediate knowledge of those situations as a result of the consortium.

Ingstad said the memorandum of understanding between DOE, HHS and the VA was signed in July. "We're just starting our journey," she said, adding that there is currently "early research in peer review."