Google on Tuesday said it has expanded its flood alert service to the whole of India and parts of Bangladesh. The system uses AI and machine learning technology to create better forecasting models that predict when and where floods will occur, and incorporates that information into Google Public Alerts. Google said it has also added support for Hindi, Bengali and seven other unspecified local languages. The company also launched a new forecasting model which can allow it to send alerts to people such that they have more time to prepare for a flood (more on that below).
Google had started this service in flood-prone region of Patna in 2018, and since then claims to have sent out around 30 million notifications to people in flood-affected areas. It also said that its system covers 200 million people across more than 250,000 square kilometres in India. Similarly, in Bangladesh, which Google said faces more flooding than any other country, the company claims to cover over 40 million people. Google said this is being expanded to the entire of Bangladesh, where it has partnered with the Bangladesh Water Development Board.
A new forecasting model: Google also launched a new forecasting model that it claimed will allow it to double the lead time of many of its alerts — providing more notice to governments and giving people an extra day or so to prepare. “We’re providing people with information about flood depth: when and how much flood waters are likely to rise. And in areas where we can produce depth maps throughout the floodplain, we’re sharing information about depth in the user’s village or area,” Yossi Matias, VP of engineering and crisis response lead at Google, wrote in the blog post.
Google.org has also collaborated with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies with an aim to build local networks that can get disaster alert information to people who wouldn’t otherwise receive smartphone alerts directly.