September 23, 2020 By Thomas Lamonte 3 min read

When an aircraft zooms overhead, clouds rippling in its wake, we’re likely witnessing a snapshot of a much grander legacy. For the last three decades, Rolls-Royce turbofan aircraft engines have driven over 100 million civil aviation flight-hours. At one time or another, you’ve probably seen some of these voyages from the corner of your eye.

London-based Rolls-Royce Holdings plc is a multinational engineering company whose technology and innovation frequently inspire a sense of awe. From aerospace and defense to energy and seafaring, millions depend on Rolls-Royce engines for their livelihoods, safety and protection. Rolls-Royce has built a reputation as an industrial leader that rises above the rest.

Following market slowdowns sparked by COVID-19, Rolls-Royce sought a way to unite trusted leaders, partners and allies to share data and expertise to foster innovation and build economic resilience. Rolls-Royce is helping lead economic recovery not only by soaring above the flock, but with a little help from their friends.

Rolls-Royce helps establish the Emergent Alliance

Co-founded by Rolls-Royce and a voluntary group of global brands, the Emergent Alliance brings together a non-profit community of technology companies and data science professionals who share the belief that data and AI will help accelerate economic recovery from COVID-19. Committed to openness, transparency and trust, the alliance collaborates on shared datasets, platforms and tools, with all innovations, models and insights released freely to the public via the Emergent Alliance website and GitHub.

IBM has signed a letter of intent to join the Emergent Alliance and its cohort of other large technology companies. The IBM Data Science and AI Elite team is helping solve real-world problems with R²Data Labs, Rolls-Royce’s nucleus for AI innovation. Dr. Klaus Paul, team lead at Rolls-Royce R²Data Labs in Germany, focuses on data and AI innovation for all sectors of the Rolls-Royce Group. He has recently partnered with IBM in several Emergent Alliance workstreams.

In the recent IBM Data and AI Virtual Forums, Dr. Klaus Paul and Erika Agostinelli, Data Scientist and Project Lead at IBM Data Science and AI Elite, discussed their efforts to solve a recent Emergent Alliance challenge statement: how a trusted and explainable risk-pulse index could help businesses emerge stronger after the pandemic.

Watch the session replay or keep reading for highlights from their conversation.

Finding the pulse of an unprecedented crisis

Accurate, timely, and trusted information is critical to managing societal and workplace implications of any crisis. Paul notes that COVID-19 presented a unique array of data challenges.

“Initially we tried to find similarities from previous economic downturns like 2009 or from previous global infections like SARS,” says Paul. “We soon realized that the current crisis is definitely unprecedented. We had to take a novel and innovative approach.”

Paul and his team discovered that a mix of data variables contributed to determining a community’s COVID-19 response. “We began to realize that the health situation drives governments and regulators to make certain decisions which impact how the public feels and how it reacts,” says Paul.

These insights provided a pattern for a unique solution.

How a risk-pulse index may help businesses emerge stronger from a crisis

As part of their Emergent Alliance effort to provide new insights and practical applications for the global COVID-19 response, IBM and Rolls-Royce R²Data Labs innovated to analyze a broad set of economic, behavioral and sentiment data. Centered around creation of a composed risk-index, the project took shape across three workstreams. IBM data scientist Erika Agostinelli, who partnered with Paul on the project, outlines the following efforts in the session replay:

  1. The risk index, which considers risk factors such as possible infection rates of COVID-19 in a specific region, or the percentage of vulnerable people living in that area, to assess whether that specific region is at risk.
  2. The pulse, which focuses on sentiment data analytics and hypothesizes that instead of focusing solely on infection metrics, the sentiment or behaviors of people living in a specific region – measured by media consumption or travel and tourism activity – may prove more useful guideposts to the public’s response to the virus.
  3. The simulation track, which created what-if data scenarios to allow governments or businesses to assess the potential consequences of COVID-19 lockdown measures on specific areas or industries.

Transparency and trust, the guiding principles of the Emergent Alliance, are the heart of the effort. “AI needs to be trusted,” says Agostinelli. “Our goal is to create something transparent and interpretable so that anyone in the community can use the tools.”

Paul predicts this trend toward interpretability and trust will continue. “In the future, the use of AI as an assistant and less as a prescription will become greater,” he says. “It’s about people and passion, about the knowledge and skills they have, and not being afraid to explore new ways of working, new ways of thinking and new ways of collaborating.”

To learn more about the Emergent Alliance and how IBM and Rolls-Royce R²Data Labs are exploring solutions to accelerate business recovery, watch the session replay now on-demand.

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