Nav: Home

AI technology could help protect water supplies

July 18, 2018

Progress on new artificial intelligence (AI) technology could make monitoring at water treatment plants cheaper and easier and help safeguard public health.

Researchers at the University of Waterloo have developed AI software capable of identifying and quantifying different kinds of cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, a threat to shut down water systems when it suddenly proliferates.

"We need to protect our water supplies," said Monica Emelko, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and member of the Water Institute at Waterloo. "This tool will arm us with a sentinel system, a more rapid indication when they are threatened.

"The exciting piece is that we've shown testing utilizing AI can be done quickly and well. Now it's time to work through all the possible scenarios and optimize the technology."

The operational AI system uses software in combination with a microscope to inexpensively and automatically analyze water samples for algae cells in about one to two hours, including confirmation of results by a human analyst.

Current testing methods, which typically involve sending samples to labs for manual analysis by technicians, take one to two days. Some automated systems already exist as well, but they require extremely expensive equipment and supplies.

According to Emelko and collaborator Alexander Wong, a systems design engineering professor at Waterloo, the AI system would provide an early warning of problems since testing could be done much more quickly and frequently.

Moving forward, the goal is an AI system to continuously monitor water flowing through a microscope for a wide range of contaminants and microorganisms.

"This brings our research into a high-impact area," said Wong. "Helping to ensure safe water through widespread deployment of this technology would be one of the great ways to really make AI count."

The researchers estimate it may take two to three years to refine a fully commercial sample testing system for use in labs or in-house at treatment plants. The technology to provide continuous monitoring could be three to four years away.

"It's critical to have running water, even if we have to boil it, for basic hygiene," said Monica Emelko, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Waterloo. "If you don't have running water, people start to get sick."
-end-
Adjunct engineering professor Chao Jin, doctoral student Jason Deglint and research associate Maria Mesquita are also collaborators.

A study on the research, Quantification of cyanobacterial cells via a novel imaging-driven technique with an integrated fluorescence signature, was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports.

University of Waterloo

Related Artificial Intelligence Articles:

Applying artificial intelligence to science education
A new review published in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching highlights the potential of machine learning--a subset of artificial intelligence--in science education.
New roles for clinicians in the age of artificial intelligence
New Roles for Clinicians in the Age of Artificial Intelligence https://doi.org/10.15212/bioi-2020-0014 Announcing a new article publication for BIO Integration journal.
Artificial intelligence aids gene activation discovery
Scientists have long known that human genes are activated through instructions delivered by the precise order of our DNA.
Artificial intelligence recognizes deteriorating photoreceptors
A software based on artificial intelligence (AI), which was developed by researchers at the Eye Clinic of the University Hospital Bonn, Stanford University and University of Utah, enables the precise assessment of the progression of geographic atrophy (GA), a disease of the light sensitive retina caused by age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
Classifying galaxies with artificial intelligence
Astronomers have applied artificial intelligence (AI) to ultra-wide field-of-view images of the distant Universe captured by the Subaru Telescope, and have achieved a very high accuracy for finding and classifying spiral galaxies in those images.
Using artificial intelligence to smell the roses
A pair of researchers at the University of California, Riverside, has used machine learning to understand what a chemical smells like -- a research breakthrough with potential applications in the food flavor and fragrance industries.
Artificial intelligence could revolutionize sea ice warnings
Today, large resources are used to provide vessels in the polar seas with warnings about the spread of sea ice.
A hidden history of artificial intelligence in primary care
Artificial intelligence methods are being utilized in radiology, cardiology and other medical specialty fields to quickly and accurately process large quantities of health data to improve the diagnostic and treatment power of health care teams.
Identifying light sources using artificial intelligence
Identifying sources of light plays an important role in the development of many photonic technologies, such as lidar, remote sensing, and microscopy.
Artificial intelligence could serve as backup to radiologists' eyes
Deploying artificial intelligence could help radiologists to more accurately classify lung diseases.
More Artificial Intelligence News and Artificial Intelligence Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Warped Reality
False information on the internet makes it harder and harder to know what's true, and the consequences have been devastating. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas around technology and deception. Guests include law professor Danielle Citron, journalist Andrew Marantz, and computer scientist Joy Buolamwini.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#576 Science Communication in Creative Places
When you think of science communication, you might think of TED talks or museum talks or video talks, or... people giving lectures. It's a lot of people talking. But there's more to sci comm than that. This week host Bethany Brookshire talks to three people who have looked at science communication in places you might not expect it. We'll speak with Mauna Dasari, a graduate student at Notre Dame, about making mammals into a March Madness match. We'll talk with Sarah Garner, director of the Pathologists Assistant Program at Tulane University School of Medicine, who takes pathology instruction out of...
Now Playing: Radiolab

How to Win Friends and Influence Baboons
Baboon troops. We all know they're hierarchical. There's the big brutish alpha male who rules with a hairy iron fist, and then there's everybody else. Which is what Meg Crofoot thought too, before she used GPS collars to track the movements of a troop of baboons for a whole month. What she and her team learned from this data gave them a whole new understanding of baboon troop dynamics, and, moment to moment, who really has the power.  This episode was reported and produced by Annie McEwen. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.