IT and UIC environmental health experts team up to protect U.S. Navy divers with AI

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UIC researchers are working on an AI system to help sailors, with a grant of $ 725,000 over two years. (Photo: Vlad Tchompalov / Unsplash)

The US Office of Naval Research has awarded $ 725,000 to researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago to develop an artificial intelligence system that can help protect divers from bacteria, parasites and other pathogens and waterborne microbes.

Sailors are sent into all kinds of water as part of their service in the US Navy, but they have limited resources to understand in real time the health risks that may exist when performing underwater tasks. – fleet maintenance and repairs to search and rescue and search missions. The most reliable water analysis technologies usually rely on analysis of samples in the laboratory and scientists knowing which microbes need to be tested. But with dynamic weather conditions, currents, water temperatures, sewage and pollution factors, the exact state of the water, especially coastal waters, at a specific time is difficult to predict.

“By the time a water sample arrives in a laboratory and is tested, conditions may have changed,” said Dr. Samuel Dorevitch, associate professor of environmental sciences and occupational health at the School of public health and co-principal investigator. “If Navy divers had real-time information, they could select the best protective gear, dive time, and take other steps to prevent various health problems, such as heat stress or infections. Gastrointestinal, skin and respiratory tract which may result from microbes in the water. “

This is where a new approach using artificial intelligence can make a difference.

“Artificial intelligence offers a way to quickly synthesize a large amount of information for a specific calculation and this technology, if we can make it happen, gives us the opportunity to improve the tools available to the Navy,” said declared Isabel Cruz, distinguished. professor of computer science at the College of Engineering and co-principal investigator.

Isabel Cruz, Natural Sciences and Engineering / Emeritus Researcher
Isabelle cruz
Samuel Dorevitch
Samuel Dorevitch

Researchers hope they can develop a system that can be used anywhere by divers to analyze water conditions using a combination of user-provided and web-based information and human data, such as age. divers, their health and the size of the dive team.

“This project is both exciting and challenging because of its multidimensionality,” said Cruz. “We hope to draw information from many sources that offer different types of data, and we will have to integrate data that is quite complex, heterogeneous and often without metadata. We’ll be building the artificial intelligence and machine learning methods in stages, and if we can train our system to reliably and accurately filter and prioritize all of this data for risk prediction, I think we’ll have something remarkable.

“If we could provide divers or their commanders with a portable device or app to assess the ever-changing ecosystem of a particular body of water and the potential health risks as they enter the water,” they would be better able to plan their mission. for optimal health and safety, ”said Dorevitch. “For members of the Navy, getting into the water is not optional and anything we can do to aid rapid, data-driven decision making to mitigate health risks is beneficial. “

Charlie Catlett, Principal Investigator at Discovery Partners Institute, is Co-Investigator. The grant, which began on May 16, will support this research for two years.

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