Calling on high-tech companies across the country to step up in this time of crisis, the White House issued an Artificial Intelligence Challenge on March 16. The objective: use artificial intelligence or information technology innovations to predict, act or communicate to lessen the impact of COVID-19 on individuals, supply chains and the economy. One of the ways Northrop Grumman is responding is through an employee challenge using an internal tool called SPARK to encourage experts across the company to submit ideas. When the idea submission period closed on April 10, more than 70 Northrop Grumman teams had proposed solutions for the White House’s consideration. Justin Vivirito, business leader for an internal AI campaign and a Northrop Grumman SPARK challenge reviewer, was impressed with the range of ideas. “Some ideas focused on early detection and predictions of COVID outbreaks; others proposed approaches for validation and verification of the AI applications that are being used by the government, public health agencies, universities and other organizations,” Vivirito said. “There are ideas on using biometric scanners to detect viral materials on individuals and surfaces. There are responses surrounding supply chain optimization and predictive analytics for resources needed by hospital systems and frontline workers. A handful of proposals had a financial and budgetary focus, which modeled the financial impact of the virus. The range of topics the submissions covered was really quite broad.” The top Northrop Grumman teams were selected by the company on April 15 and will receive funding to continue work on their proposed solutions. “We hope that they can make some solid progress in the next couple of weeks and then identify the right avenues that will make the most impact,” Vivirito said. The next steps after selection will differ for each team, as the paths to apply or further develop each solution vary as widely as the ideas themselves. Ideas range from innovation for early detection to economic impact modeling. The hope is that ultimately, one will answer the call of the White House.
April 21, 2020