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IBM and The Weather Channel debut coronavirus map

March 25, 2020, 1:00 PM UTC

IBM and its subsidiary, The Weather Channel, have created an online map that tracks the spread of U.S. coronavirus cases.

The new map, which debuted nationwide on Wednesday after a few days of testing, shows a state-by-state and county-by-county breakdown of confirmed COVID-19 cases and related deaths.

People can see specific information from their counties that includes the percentage increase of new COVID-19 cases from the previous week and a graph detailing the daily progression of new cases and deaths. The service, which can be accessed from the Weather Channel’s website or mobile app, also features safety tips from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as news articles. 

Cameron Clayton, the general manager of IBM Watson Media & Weather, said his team gathered data from state and local governments. To do so, the Weather Channel staff used software that scans government websites for information, like updated COVID-19 cases and fatalities.

IBM and The Weather Channel launch a coronavirus incidents map.

Because each government may post coronavirus-related information in formats like PDFs that are hard for computers to easily decipher, IBM had to use computer-vision technology to analyze the documents and obtain the relevant information.  

While The Weather Channel has built similar interactive maps during previous national catastrophes, the process was longer and more tedious then because A.I. technology was less sophisticated than it is today, Clayton said.

By next week, Clayton said, the interactive map will update every 15 minutes. Those updates depend on county governments adding new information online, which some may fail to do because they’re understaffed, Clayton acknowledged. 

He said he hopes the map “reinforces why people of all ages should be heeding the warnings from their government officials about staying in place.”

Eventually, The Weather Channel plans to debut additional maps in other countries and new features that can predict the spread of the coronavirus, to help with “scenario planning.” 

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