29 Apr 2022

Building the ‘Net Zero’ AI Toolkit. (Guest blog from Appen)

Guest Blog by Sarah Lowe, VP of Business Development EMEA & APAC at Appen, as part of techUK's AI week 2022. #AIWeek2022

For the past 20 years or more, the focus on technological innovation has been on making our lives easier, faster, and better. We’ve developed phones with GPS to make driving and navigation easier, we’ve developed innovations so we can get same-day or next orders instead of going to the store, and we’ve developed conversational AI assistants to respond to any number of voice commands and handle tasks for us. 

But, what happened to the dream of technology making the world a better place? 

No longer is technology and AI just for making our lives easier, it’s time for it to be used to make the world a better, more sustainable place. AI is helping organizations around the globe to reach their emissions goals and reach net zero. Using AI technology and advancements, Appen has sped up our goal of reaching net-zero energy use from 2050 to 2030.  

Why is Net Zero Important 

Energy use is a critical component in our carbon footprint on this planet. The more energy we use, the more carbon output there is, which harms the environment and contributes to climate change. When used the right way, technology can be the key to saving our planet and reducing the effects of climate change. 

While goals have been set, discussions have been had, and progress has been made, we still have a long way to go. And, it will take each and every one of us and every organization to work together to make impactful change. Practicing Responsible AI is about doing for all users, including the environment. 

How AI is Being Used to Achieve Net Zero Goals 

Many organizations are already using the pattern recognition and predictive capabilities of AI to help them to reach their net-zero goals. Here are just a few examples of how companies are harnessing the power of AI to make the world a better place and save the environment. 

Computer Vision and Wildfire Mapping 

Over the last few years, we’ve all watched as wildfires have devastated swaths of the American West and Australia. Computer vision is being used to map out wildfire paths and assist firefighters. The computer vision algorithm can help firefighters to identify the most efficient paths to extinguish the fires. It can also be used to predict areas that are more vulnerable to fires.  

More Efficient HVAC Usage 

When it comes to energy use, we all can do our small part. An easy, affordable way that individuals and businesses can improve their energy usage is by installing smart thermostats. Smart thermostats use AI technology to lessen energy use while maintaining a comfortable environment.  

Changemaker Climate Change AI 

Climate Change AI or CCAI is an organization run by volunteers who believe that AI can play an impactful role in mitigating climate change. The organization catalogues resources and puts together blog posts to help other organizations reach their net zero goals using AI.  

System Optimization with AI 

One of AI’s strong skills is pattern recognition and data analysis. Using these skills, organizations can optimize systems to improve energy usage metrics. Examples of how this is being done include: 

  • Using AI to predict the weather in relation to solar energy production 

  • Using AI to improve traffic light timing throughout the day and differing traffic patterns to reduce emissions. 

Evaluating the Risks Vs. the Rewards 

As we’ve learned over the years, with every advancement comes the drawbacks. It’s important to evaluate the risks of using AI software to reach net zero goals. AI requires hardware and energy to operate, both of which can have an effect on the environment.  

By assessing the positives and negatives, organizations can come to a rational conclusion about how AI can impact their journey to net zero.  


Sarah Lowe, VP of Business Development EMEA & APAC at Appen


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