Feb 20, 2021

IBM Watson AI XPRIZE; Leveraging AI for the good of people

Laura V. Garcia
4 min
The IBM Watson AI XPRIZE finalists; Leveraging AI in the fight against human trafficking, malaria and mental health...


With a mission to “bring about radical breakthroughs for the benefit of humanity” and believing that you get what you incentivise, XPRIZE uses large incentives to spur ideas and create an impact in five areas: Learning; Exploration; Energy & Environment; Global Development; and Life Sciences.

With a sweet little $5 million prize purse, the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE aims to demonstrate the power of AI in tackling global challenges. First launched in 2016, the competition looks to “accelerate adoption of artificial intelligence (AI) technologies and spark creative, innovative, and audacious demonstrations of the technology that are truly scalable to solve societal grand challenges.”

Over the last four years, the competition has received 780 submissions, which were gradually narrowed down, leaving only 147 participants from 22 countries by 2017. Finally, the final three have been announced.

The submissions will be evaluated on four dimensions: achieved technical impact, evidenced real-world impact, scalability of real-world impact, and ethics and safety. The grand prize of $3 million will be awarded to “the team that is the most ambitious, audacious, and likely to achieve the spirit of the competition.” The runner-up will receive a prize of $1 million, with third-place set to win $500,000.

Marinus Analytics; Fighting to reduce human trafficking 

Marinus Analytics from Pittsburg, PA, USA, has been selected as one of the finalists. A spinoff of Carnegie Mellon University and founded in 2014, Marinus Analytics uses AI and facial recognition solutions to fight human trafficking. 

"Every day, there are hundreds of thousands of ads online selling sexual services. Behind many of these are victims of human trafficking. The company’s flagship tool, Traffic Jam, uses AI like facial recognition to help law enforcement find victims and enable them to take down organised criminal networks. Traffic Jam is a suite of analytics tools developed to help save precious investigative time to rescue vulnerable victims by quickly turning big data into actionable intelligence."

In 2019, Traffic Jam was used to identify an estimated 3,800 victims of sex trafficking.

Now that is the real prize.

“We are thrilled to have earned recognition for our efforts to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to assist law enforcement in the global battle against human trafficking,” said President and Co-founder Emily Kennedy. “We plan to use any prize money we are awarded to supercharge our ability to find victims and detect the largest organised crime rings globally and expand our innovation to child protection and cyber fraud.”

“We are excited to expand our efforts into new areas, including building tailored tools to help social workers, enriching outcome analysis, and enhancing motivational interviewing in the field,” commented Cara Jones, CEO and Co-founder of Marinus Analytics. “We will also empower government agencies who enforce cybercrime regulations with the information they need to identify the largest streams of cyber fraud and online scams. These new areas will continue our strong mission of protecting the vulnerable and ending systemic exploitation.”

 Alfred Health; Improving mental health

Based in Montreal, Canada, Alfred Health is a digital health company focused on clinical decision support in mental health, starting with depression. Using AI-based insights and best-evidence guidelines to personal treatment choices and enable better treatment management in healthcare. To improve their ML models, IBM Watson Health provides Alfred Health with millions of records of observational depression data.

Zzapp; Working to eradicate malaria

 Israel’s ZZappMalaria leverages AI to mitigate the associated risks of malaria by identifying malaria hotspots. Currently deployed in Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania, ZzappMalaria’s app works on low-cost phones most commonly used in developing countries and is designed to work in low connectivity environments. 

Although it feels to me like the prizes have already been one, all three finalists will need to give one final pitch later this year for a chance at the cool $3 million.

Check out more on the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE competition.

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Jun 22, 2021

ASCM: Supply chain pay gap closes in under 40s

2 min
Women under 40 in supply chain now earn more than men, according to ASCM’s 2021 salary and career report, though POC and older women still face imbalance

The pay gap between men and women working in supply chain under the age of 40 has finally reached parity, according to the Association for Supply Chain Management’s latest annual Supply Chain Salary and Career Report

The gender pay gap in this age group had been narrowing over the past two years, the ASCM’s previous surveys show, and in 2021 has closed entirely. Women report a median salary of $81,000 annually, while men earn a median annual salary of $79,000. Across all age brackets, men report a median salary of $82,000 and women $80,000.

Other highlights from the ASCM report

  • 95% of supply chain professionals kept their job through the pandemic
  • The typical starting salary for a supply chain professional is $60,000
  • 48% of supply chain professionals now work from home
  • 88% of survey respondents find supply chain a fulfilling career path


But there is still work to be done in closing the divide in those over the age of 40. Older men are still earning far more than their female peers, with a discrepancy of between $12,000 and $23,000 annually. ASCM’s report does not definitively conclude why this disparity remains, but says women who began their careers several decades ago may have started out on lower salaries. They may also have missed out on steady wage increases and career development after taking time away from work to have and raise families. 

It is also likely that the pay gap in over 40s is affected by a lack of women in executive leadership positions. A recent Gartner study found that, while women now represent 41% of the supply chain workforce - a five year high - only 15% of executive level positions are held by women. That figure is a decline of two per cent on 2020. 

ASCM 2021 Supply Chain Salary and Career Report
Source: ASCM 2021 Supply Chain Salary and Career Report

Supply chain’s racial pay gap remains

For the first time, ASCM’s annual survey also looked into the pay gap between ethnicities, finding that the median salary for black professionals was 12% less than their white peers, and Latinos earned on average 14% less. That represents a divide of between $9,000 and &10,000 in real terms. Asian professionals earned a median salary of $80,000, compared with the $83,000 for white professionals. 

Abe Eshkenazi, the ASCM chief executive, said reporting on and acknowledging lingering wage disparity was not enough: “Supply chain organisations must lead the way by creating environment where diverse talent is valued, included and developed. The need for supply chain professionals has never been greater, so now is the time to expand the aperture to include diversity of thought, influence and input — particularly for women and people of colour.”    

Read the full report: ASCM 2021 Supply Chain Salary and Career Report

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