18 February 2019
The Hong Kong Observatory is tapping artificial intelligence to improve its weather forecasts. Photo: HKO
The Hong Kong Observatory is tapping artificial intelligence to improve its weather forecasts. Photo: HKO

HK Observatory takes on the challenge of innovation

China sees bright prospects in the field of artificial intelligence (AI). Face-detecting system Face++, a Beijing-based Chinese startup valued at US$1 billion, is one of the 10 technologies selected by MIT Technology Review. iFlyTek Co., a firm specializing in smart language research, is said to have taken a 70 percent market share with products that can translate as many as 27 languages, including dialects and slangs.

The State Council announced in July a plan to develop artificial intelligence for the new generation, expecting China to become a leader of innovation by 2030.

The observatory sees Hong Kong’s AI development

How about Hong Kong? Artificial intelligence academic Yang Qiang said the Hong Kong government and the local commercial sector have been too passive in promoting scientific research, and this has led to talent loss.

As such, I am glad to know that the Hong Kong Observatory can cope with the challenge of overloaded information, initiating in 2013 an in-house project to develop the Intelligent Meteorological Monitoring Assistant, a system that processes data of over 150 million pages of text each day, carries nearly 200 built-in rules for selecting useful information, and produces executable suggestions. Since then, the system has been operational.

The system has several major functions, including the following:

- Monitoring weather warnings issued by meteorological centers in nearby regions.

- Tracking record-breaking weather incidents that raise public concern.

- Writing weather reports for heavy rainfall automatically.

- Reminding forecasters to update the system when real data deviates much from the weather forecast.

- Analyzing computer model output, and reminding forecasters of possible extreme weather conditions that may occur.

- Reminding forecasters to follow up, when local meteorological stations show questionable data.

With its top international AI academics, Hong Kong has trained many scientific researchers.

If more public organizations and private companies tackle their problems with innovative technology, like what the Observatory does, Hong Kong will not only be able to fully project its soft power, but will also provide stronger upward mobility to society. It can even foster creativity among young people.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Sept. 18

Translation by Jonathan Chong

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong

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