Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Microsoft and apply IoT to future pandemics

Steve Rogerson
April 1, 2020

Microsoft is working with AI software provide and a group of US universities to apply IoT and artificial intelligence (AI) technology to mitigate future pandemics.
In collaboration with the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), University of California, Berkeley, Princeton University, University of Chicago, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University and National Center for Supercomputing Applications at UIUC, they have set up the Digital Transformation Institute (DTI), a research consortium dedicated to accelerating the application of AI to speed the pace of digital transformation in business, government and society.
Jointly managed by UC Berkeley and UIUC, the DTI will sponsor and fund scientists in a coordinated effort. The institute is inviting scholars, developers and researchers to embrace the challenge of abating Covid-19 and advancing the knowledge, science and technologies for mitigating future pandemics using AI.
“The Digital Transformation Institute is a consortium of leading scientists, researchers, innovators and executives from academia and industry, joining forces to accelerate the social and economic benefits of digital transformation,” said Thomas Siebel, CEO of “We have the opportunity through public-private partnership to change the course of a global pandemic. I cannot imagine a more important use of AI.” 
The institute has put forward an immediate call for proposals on AI techniques to mitigate pandemic including:

  • Applying machine learning and other AI methods to mitigate the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Genome-specific Covid-19 medical protocols, including precision medicine of host responses.
  • Biomedical informatics methods for drug design and repurposing.
  • Design and sharing of clinical trials for collecting data on medications, therapies and interventions.
  • Modelling, simulation and prediction for understanding Covid-19 propagation and efficacy of interventions.
  • Logistics and optimisation analysis for design of public health strategies and interventions.
  • Rigorous approaches to designing sampling and testing strategies.
  • Data analytics for Covid-19 research harnessing private and sensitive data.
  • Improving societal resilience in response to the spread of the Cpvid-19 pandemic.
  • Broader efforts in biomedicine, infectious disease modelling, response logistics and optimisation, public health efforts, tools, and methodologies around the containment of rising infectious diseases and response to pandemics, so as to be better prepared for future infectious diseases.
The first call for proposals is open now, with a deadline of May 1, 2020. Selected proposals will be announced by June 1, 2020.
Up to $5.8m in awards will be funded from this first call, ranging from $100,000 to $500,000 each. In addition to cash awards, DTI recipients will be provided with cloud computing, supercomputing, data access and AI software resources and technical support provided by Microsoft and This will include unlimited use of the C3 AI Suite and access to the Microsoft Azure cloud platform, and access to the Blue Waters supercomputer at the National Center for Super Computing Applications (NCSA) at UIUC.
“We are collecting a massive amount of data about Mers, Sars and now Covid-19,” said Condoleezza Rice, former US secretary of state. “We have a unique opportunity before us to apply the new sciences of AI and digital transformation to learn from these data how we can better manage these phenomena and avert the worst outcomes for humanity. I can think of no work more important and no response more cogent and timely than this important public-private partnership.”
Eric Horvitz, chief scientist at Microsoft, added: “We’re excited about the Digital Transformation Institute and are happy to join on a shared mission to accelerate research at these eminent research institutions. As we launch this exciting private-public partnership, we’re enthusiastic about aiming the broader goals of the institute at urgent challenges with the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as on longer-term research that could help minimise future pandemics.”
And Carol Christ, chancellor at UC Berkeley, said: “At UC Berkeley, we are thrilled to help co-lead this important endeavour to establish and advance the science of digital transformation at the nexus of machine learning, IoT and cloud computing. We believe this institute has the potential to make tremendous contributions by including ethics, new business models and public policy to the technologies for transforming societal scale systems globally.”
At the heart of DTI will be the constant flow of ideas and expertise provided by on-going research, visiting professors and research scholars, and faculty and scholars in residence, many of whom will come from beyond the member institutions.
“This is about global innovation based on multinational collaboration to accelerate the positive impact of AI by providing researchers access to real world data and to massive resources,” said Jim Snabe, chairman of Siemens. “This is exactly the kind of multinational public-private partnership that is required to address this critical issue.” DTI will focus its research on AI, machine learning, IoT, big data analytics, human factors, organisational behaviour, ethics and public policy. The institute will support the development of ML algorithms, data security and cyber-security techniques. Research will analyse business operation models, develop methods of implementing organisational change management and protecting privacy, and amplify the dialogue around the ethics and public policy of AI.
To support the institute, will provide $57m in cash contributions over the first five years of operation. and Microsoft will contribute an additional $310m in-kind, including use of the C3 AI Suite and Microsoft Azure computing, storage and technical resources to support research.