(p. A1) SEATTLE — The company called One Concern has all the characteristics of a buzzy and promising Silicon Valley start-up: young founders from Stanford, tens of millions of dollars in venture capital and a board with prominent names.
Its particular niche is disaster response. And it markets a way to use artificial intelligence to address one of the most vexing issues facing emergency responders in disasters: figuring out where people need help in time to save them.
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But when T.J. McDonald, who works for Seattle’s office of emergency management, reviewed a simulated earthquake on the company’s damage prediction platform, he spotted problems. A popular big-box store was grayed out on the web-based map, meaning there was no analysis of the conditions there, and shoppers and workers who might be in danger would not receive immediate help if rescuers relied on One Concern’s results.
“If that Costco collapses in the middle of the day, there’s going to be a lot of people who are hurt,” he said.
The error? The simulation, the company acknowledged, missed many commercial areas because damage calculations relied largely on residential census data.
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(Note: the online version of the story has the date Aug. 9, 2019, and has the title “This High-Tech Solution to Disaster Response May Be Too Good to Be True.”)