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How Covid has warranted a next-generation approach to nowcasting

Instantaneous forecasting can be a great tool for planning, decision-making, and saving lives, especially in the Covid era. Until now nowcasting has been immensely helpful in predicting the weather and managing traffic wherein instant decisions can be taken to plan evacuations or re-route respectively. Precipitation nowcasting, for example, is done using Machine Learning and it focuses on 0-6 hour forecasts. The resultant forecasts can have a resolution of 1km with a latency of only five to ten minutes. This is including data collection delays, outperforming traditional models, even though the model is still in its nascent stages of development. State-of-the-art nowcasting techniques when combined with new technology such as electronic message boards or smartphones as an effective tool in minimizing injuries or loss of lives, especially during fog or dust storms which cause multiple-vehicle collisions.

But Covid has taught us that new generation or next-generation of nowcasting applications should be developed for a wide variety of specific needs of the society. The approach to next-generation nowcasting works at reducing the number of variables to arrive at more accurate analysis. Industry and country targeted approaches must be used to reduce the variables and arrive at the necessary few, pertaining to a particular sector. With the now specific selection, the variables will be relatively stable in relation to each other compared to the earlier traditional model, even during a major fluctuation such as the pandemic or other crises. This model will remain more adaptable and will give timely and unique insights into the economy.

Why is next-generation nowcasting needed?

According to a McKinsey report, current nowcasting models need to be revisited as they gave unreliable results which led to misleading analysis of the economy. Though this is not uncommon during a period of major economic stress, this situation must be tackled for better results. The pandemic brought along a structural break with an unprecedented shutting of businesses across the world. This resulted in many variables being broken, and the resulting inability to get the impact of the ongoing events on the economy. While the demand for consumer goods such as fitness material and equipment, healthcare products etc reached new heights, the F&B industry came to a grinding halt. Variables which were used to predict about the other businesses, were thus rendered useless.

The next step in nowcasting would be an exciting range of smartphone-based apps for nowcasting. In the pandemic era it could mean knowing beforehand. For example, planning your financial/non-financial activities on the basis of the prediction about any imminent danger from new covid variants in your area and more such data. On a lighter note, such apps will also be able to tell you about a storm headed in your directions, route-planning for biking enthusiasts, garden-keeping using precipitation data and more.

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wasim basir

marketing, board member

It’s most obvious in the digital media space, from click buys to personalized web experiences. For marketing, the AI journey has just kick-started, while in the tech sector it has been applied for a while now. We are still at an early stage where inroads are being made into AI content via chatbots and even some explanatory content creation but what will make anyone jump up and embrace it is when we will start seeing a lot of mainstream content being created by AI.

rich arnold

board member

Prior to joining Infinite Analytics, Richard served as the CFO of CrowdFlower, COO and CFO of Phoenix Technologies, as a member of the board of directors and chairman of the Audit Committee at Intellisync, and previously as CFO and executive vice president strategy and corporate development at Charles Schwab.

pravin gandhi

board member

Pravin Gandhi has over 50 years of entrepreneurial operational and investing experience in the IT industry in India. He was a founding partner of the first early stage fund India - INFINITY. Subsequently a founding partner in Seedfund I & II. With over 18 years of investing experience, he is extensively well networked in investment and entrepreneurial scene and is an active early stage angel investor in tech & impact space. Pravin holds a BS in Industrial Engineering from Cornell University, and serves on the board of several private corporations in India. He is on the board of SINE, IIT Mumbai Incubator.

Purushotham Botla

co-founder & cto

Puru has his Masters in Engineering and Management from MIT. Prior to MIT, he worked with Fidelity Investments building electronic trading products and high volume market data processing applications. He has completed his BE from VJTI, Mumbai.


Deb Roy

Executive Director, MIT Media Lab

Deb Roy is Professor of Media Arts and Sciences at MIT where he directs the MIT Center for Constructive Communication, and a Visiting Professor at Harvard Law School. He leads research in applied machine learning and human-machine interaction with applications in designing systems for learning and constructive dialogue, and for mapping and analyzing large scale media ecosystems. Deb is also co-founder and Chair of Cortico, a nonprofit social technology company that develops and operates the Local Voices Network to surface underheard voices and bridge divides.

Roy served as Executive Director of the MIT Media Lab from 2019-2021. He was co-founder and CEO of Bluefin Labs, a media analytics company that analyzed the interactions between television and social media at scale. Bluefin was acquired by Twitter in 2013, Twitter’s largest acquisition of the time. From 2013-2017 Roy served as Twitter’s Chief Media Scientist.

Erik Brynjolfsson

Board Member

Erik Brynjolfsson is the Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Professor and Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI (HAI), and Director of the Stanford Digital Economy Lab. He also is the Ralph Landau Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR), Professor by Courtesy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and Stanford Department of Economics, and a Research Associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER).

Akash Bhatia

Co-Founder and CEO

Akash co-founded IA while studying for his MBA from MIT. Prior to MIT Sloan, he co-founded Zoonga. Before this, Akash was an engineer with Oracle in Silicon Valley. He has completed his M.S from University of Cincinnati and B.E from the College of Engineering, Pune.