Alibaba Group and Met Office representatives presented the Tianchi data mining contest to a full house at the University of Exeter Living Systems Institute.

Alibaba Cloud and Met Office launch Tianchi Data Mining Contest

Deliveries could be made by unmanned balloons around the UK in the future, if entrants to a new competition from Alibaba Cloud and the Met Office are successful.

Senior representatives from both organisations invited attendees at the first UK event, held at the University of Exeter on 16 January 2018, to participate in the international challenge.

The contest will be set in 2050, in a world where the invention of 'anti-gravity engines' has led to the creation of unmanned balloons as the preferred logistics solution. However, because of the UK's complex meteorological conditions, the balloons are occasionally delayed, damaged or even destroyed by extreme weather conditions causing disruption and loss.

Contestants will be challenged to create algorithms that can plan flight routes for these balloons to navigate the endless variation and changeable nature across the UK to optimise their delivery schedules and costs. The team which comes up with the best solution will win $10,000 cloud credits and an internship opportunity at the Met Office.

Contestants will utilise public meteorological data provided by the Met Office in categories including rainfall and wind speed. Changing temperatures, rainfall, wind speed in area grids of four square kilometres and five-minute time intervals will be selected to challenge the resilience of the balloons. This will be overlaid with data for the balloons such as take-off and landing locations, maximum fly time and speed, as well as a set of limiting factors such as collision avoidance parameters. Participants will be able to test their algorithms and modify their models accordingly.

"We are excited about hosting the competition with the Met Office. We share a vision to develop solutions that can solve real-life problems of global interest. This competition will challenge the participants in a scenario with real-life factors to test both their technological capability and creative thinking. We look forward to receiving innovative solutions from data talent around the world," said Wanli Min, Chief Machine Intelligence Scientist, Alibaba Cloud.

"Since our foundation in 1854, the Met Office has been striving to continuously improve the accuracy and usefulness of weather forecasting. We are excited that data from our forecasting systems is part of this challenging competition. We hope all contestants will enjoy the British weather as much as we do, even if it pushes them to the limit," said Alberto Arribas, Head Informatics Lab, Met Office.

For more information and to enter the competition, please visit the Tianchi website.

Date: 17 January 2018

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