Indian American-led Nexleaf Analytics and Wadhwani AI were named among the 20 organizations that received a Google AI Impact Challenge grant, the tech giant announced May 7.
Google.org issued an open call to organizations around the world to submit their ideas for how they could use AI to help address societal challenges.
From that call, applications streamed in from 119 countries, spanning six continents with projects ranging from environmental to humanitarian.
The organization whittled down from the countless applicants to come up with its 20 recipients.
Of Nexleaf, Google said that the storage condition of a vaccine can significantly affect its effectiveness, which is especially challenging in remote regions with limited infrastructure.
“We’re proud to announce that Nexleaf has been selected as a google.org grantee for the Google AI Impact Challenge, to bring more meaning on the impact of temperature conditions on vaccines,” the organization said in a Facebook post.
“Many vaccines are temperature sensitive and exposure to unsafe temperatures damages their potency. A strong and transparent cold chain is needed to ensure every child on Earth, even in remote places lacking resilient infrastructure, receives safe and effective vaccines,” it added.
Nexleaf tracks data on vaccine cold chain systems, providing critical information to health workers and other decision-makers on the system’s functioning. They will use AI technologies to build data models that predict vaccine degradation, quantify the value of vaccines at risk, and ultimately develop an end-to-end system to ensure safe, effective vaccine delivery, it said.
Headquartered in Los Angeles, California, Nexleaf Analytics is led by co-founder and chief executive officer Nithya Ramanathan.
The non-profit organization is dedicated to preserving human life and protecting the planet by designing sensor technologies, generating data analytics and advocating for data-driven solutions to global challenges, according to its website, www.nexleaf.org.
Nexleaf focuses on serving low-income countries by protecting temperature-sensitive vaccines for newborns, reducing air pollution through incentivizing adoption of cleaner cooking practices, and increasing the livelihood of smallholder farmers by protecting produce from spoilage.
With Project Surya partners, Ramanathan leads StoveTrace, an innovative approach to monitoring improved cookstoves and using cutting-edge climate science to increase clean energy access in the developing world.
Nexleaf’s immunization platform, ColdTrace, developed with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Google.org, Gavi, Ministries of Health and NGO partners, currently protects the vaccine supply for over 12 million babies born each year.
Ramanathan brings over 20 years of experience as a computer scientist to the development of sensing and analytics applications, including her work in research and hardware development at Intel and Hewlett-Packard and as an assistant research faculty member in computer science at UCLA.
She holds a doctorate in computer science from UCLA and a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from U.C. Berkeley, and her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals including Vaccine and Nature Climate Change.
Ramanathan is a PopTech Social Innovation Fellow, Switzer Environmental Fellow and a Rainer Arnhold Fellow. She is the winner of the 2017 Hedy Lamarr Award for Female Tech Pioneer, and has presented at the Vatican on creating innovative technology solutions for climate change.
Of The Wadhwani Institute of Artificial Intelligence, Google said that more than 1 billion people live in smallholder farmer households worldwide, and many of these farmers struggle with avoidable pest damage that can wipe out up to 50 percent of annual crop yield.
In the Wadhwani AI project, as farmers and agriculture program workers take regular photos of pest traps, AI models on their phones classify and count the pests. The data will be used to provide millions of farmers with timely, localized advice to reduce pesticide usage and improve yield, according to Google.
“AI can meaningfully improve lives by giving us new ways of approaching humanitarian problems. We’re thrilled to announce that we’ll be receiving a $2M grant from Google.org as well as AI expertise and resources as a part of the #GoogleAI Impact Challenge,” the organization said in a Facebook post.
The Wadhwani Institute, founded by brothers Romesh and Sunil Wadhwani, is an independent, nonprofit research institute and global hub, developing AI solutions for social good. It currently focuses on areas such as health, agriculture, financial inclusion, infrastructure and education.
“At Wadhwani AI, the people we are working to help, stay at the core of everything we do,” the institute says on its website, www.wadhwaniai.org.
Based in India, the institute has direct access to local communities and other stakeholders which gives it a “uniquely empathetic, deeply-rooted understanding of the challenge.”
The Wadhwani AI team uses its global lens to then create solutions that are applicable across the world.
“And we measure our success based on the impact we are able to catalyze,” it added.
Romesh is the founder of the Wadhwani Foundation. A Silicon Valley entrepreneur and philanthropist, he built three successful companies including the $3.5 billion Symphony Technology Group.
He is a member of the Gates-Buffet Giving Pledge, and was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center.
He received his B.Tech from IIT Bombay, and M.S. and doctorate in electrical engineering from Carnegie Mellon University.
Sunil is the founder-donor of WISH Foundation, which runs over 300 technology-enabled health clinics in some of the poorest areas in India. He was the co-founder and CEO of iGate Corporation, an IT services firm which grew to over 34,000 employees and was sold for $4.5 billion in 2015.
He has served on the boards of several institutions including Carnegie-Mellon University, George Washington University and United Way Worldwide. Sunil is a Distinguished Alumnus of IIT Madras and has a master’s degree from Carnegie-Mellon University.
The selected organizations will receive coaching from Google’s AI experts, Google.org grant funding from a $25 million pool, and credits and consulting from Google Cloud. They will also be offered the opportunity to join a customized 6-month Google Developers Launchpad Accelerator program, including guidance from its nonprofit partner, DataKind, to jumpstart their work.
“At Google, we believe that artificial intelligence can provide new ways of approaching problems and meaningfully improve people’s lives. That’s why we’re excited to support organizations that are using the power of AI to address social and environmental challenges,” the organization wrote in announcing the recipients.
“We looked for projects across a range of social impact domains and levels of technical expertise, from organizations that are experienced in AI to those with an idea for how they could put their data to better use. From that search, we selected 20 organizations that encompass the breadth of impact AI has to offer,” it added.