Published: 01st July 2018
Bengaluru-based student team called 'Pixxel' aims to make it to an international AI contest
Organised by IBM, the team is working on solutions to various problems that could be solved using satellite tech and AI
A Bengaluru-based student team comprising members from BITS Pilani, BITS Goa, RV College of Engineering, Bengaluru and NIT Surathkal, who call themselves, Pixxel are preparing to enter an international competition called the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE.
The $ (US) 5 million competition aims to "develop and demonstrate how humans can collaborate with powerful AI technologies to tackle the world’s grand challenges."
A number of these students are former members of Team Hyperloop India (that took part in the much-hyped international competition started by Elon Musk's company, SpaceX).
More than the competition, the team is working towards finding solutions to some primary problems related to agriculture, natural disasters to name a few through AI, machine learning as well as satellite technology.
Over the next few months, this group of students aim to build a constellation of nanosatellites that will be delivered into the earth's lower orbit.
Their plan to enter the XPRIZE competition is closely aligned with this work, Awais Ahmed, team lead, Pixxel, told City Express.
The team comprises of over 30 students working in the spheres of data analytics, image processing, astronautical engineering and business development.
Only another team from India, Atom360 from Hyderabad is in the running for the XPRIZE competition.
"We have to submit a proposal by 2020. There is a wildcard entry round in December that we are hoping to enter. We are working on the proposal as of now. What we intend to do is show the impact we have created with our technology, " says Alias.
The Pixxel team is divided into two functions - one that is building satellites and another that is building the AI model.
"We are moulding our technology into final products and services. We will partner with cooperatives and farmers. One use of our tech is, for example, to send simple and comprehensive data models to farmers in local messages so that they can make an informed choice while farming. Using satellite imagery (from openly available sources online for the time being) we have been able to predict agricultural yield three months in advance at an accuracy level of 90 per cent. Our aim is to cut the data gap," says Awais.
Highlighting the larger aim of their work, a statement from Pixxel reads, "At the very least, the wealth of data that this constellation will generate can affect economies, militaries, the planet's health, the state of its infrastructure and disaster management."
For the past few months, the students have been working with Workbench Projects, a city-based makerspace fabrication lab and co-working space. Pavan Kumar, co-founder, Workbench
Projects, says, “The goal is to finish building one nanosatellite as a proof-of-concept by the end of July 2018.”
Awais highlights the ultimate goal of Pixxel. "We want to provide real-time, universally accessible, affordable, freshly updated information about any location on the planet. We want to monitor the ever-changing features of earth’s surface and the emerging situations that influence the environment, the economy, our nation’s security, and make smarter day-to-day operational decisions."
The team has also been in talks with ISRO and Shell. The Peenya Industrial Association is also on board, and the team has got free access to all their tools and designing support from industry experts.