IBM donates Weather Company data and supercomputing tools to help stop spread of Zika virus

The tech giant said it is making its virtual crowdsourced supercomputing platform, the World Community Grid, to researchers in the U.S. and Brazil for the OpenZika project. 
By Jack McCarthy
09:58 AM
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IBM Weather Company Zika

The technology giant also intends to help Brazil’s public health department host a hackathon via IBM’s Bluemix cloud platform so developers can create health apps. 

IBM announced that it will provide technology, resources and expertise to help battle the spread of the Zika virus, including supercomputing services and weather data.

The tech giant will assist Brazil's Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz), a research institution affiliated with the Brazilian Ministry of Health, IBM said in a news release.

Fiocruz and public health officials and epidemiologists can use STEM (Spatiotemporal Epidemiological Modeler) software, developed by IBM and donated to the open source Eclipse Foundation, to better understand the effects of responses that take into account factors like geography, weather, the passage of time, human travel patterns, roadways and airports.

In an early indication of how it may harness The Weather Company it acquired last October for healthcare-related purposes, the company also said it will donate a one-year subscription feed of highly local, daily rainfall, average temperature and relative humidity data from The Weather Company to the U.S. Fund for UNICEF to better understand patterns of the spread of Zika.

Rainfall, temperature and humidity play key roles in the development of Aedes aegypti larvae, the primary mosquito that carries Zika. Over 20,000 of these weather-related data points spread across Brazil can provide daily information used to help estimate the larvae's proliferation.

And on the supercomputing front, IBM is making its World Community Grid virtual crowdsourced supercomputer available to the OpenZika project. A free app is available for download that automatically provides researchers with unused computing power on volunteers computers or Android devices.

Through this program, scientists in Brazil and the U.S. can screen millions of chemical compounds to identify candidates for treatments to combat the Zika virus.

In the first two months of the study, for instance, more than 50,000 volunteers from all over the world have enrolled and donated the equivalent of over 4,000 years of computing time and performed more than 20,000 virtual experiments, saving researchers $1.5 million in equivalent computing resources. 

Looking ahead to the fall, IBM announced that it will enable Brazil’s Fiocruz to host a hackathon on its Bluemix cloud platform so developers have a place to create health apps. 

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