Flood forecasting prototype earns acclaim for UL Lafayette, CGI


A flood forecasting prototype developed as part of a collaboration between University of Louisiana at Lafayette researchers and tech company CGI has earned a 2020 Government Innovation Award.

The awards are given by a group of media outlets affiliated with Public Sector 360, a company that provides information, analysis and news for government and IT sectors. The Government Innovation Awards recognize “transformative government projects, individual change agents and industry partners that are reimagining public-sector IT,” according to the awards website.

UL Lafayette and CGI’s “Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for Flood Prevention and Forecasting” prototype was recognized in the Industry Innovator Category. The model uses artificial intelligence to more accurately – and quickly – forecast floods.

Dr. Emad Habib, a UL Lafayette professor of civil engineering who directs the University’s Louisiana Watershed Flood Center, is leading the ongoing project. It implements a data mining prototype to discover and curate large amounts of data.

Rainfall records, river and surface water levels, soil moisture content and other information is culled from dozens of sources, including satellites, gauges and field sensors. The data is integrated and interpreted with machine learning, a form of artificial intelligence.

“Recent technologies in data sciences and machine learning, coupled with the unprecedented growth in environmental data from nontraditional sources, open the door for innovative approaches that can help our communities become more resilient,” Habib said.

The prototype also earned praise in September. It was a Top 8 finalist – among more than 220 nominations – in the American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council’s Igniting Innovation Award competition. The council recognized innovative research that benefits people and communities.

Researchers from the Department of Civil Engineering, Louisiana Watershed Flood Center, Institute for Coastal and Water Research, and Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering are contributing to the project.

It is sponsored by CGI through the National Science Foundation Center for Visual and Decision Informatics at UL Lafayette. CVDI is the only NSF center in the nation that focuses on data science, big data analytics and visual analytics.

Sumit Shah is chief data scientist at CGI, and a leader on CVDI’s industry advisory board. Shah said the flood forecasting research exemplifies the “great value” offered by university and industry collaboration because it utilizes “cross-disciplinary expertise to solve very complex problems."

Read more about the Government Innovation Award recognition on the University’s Institute for Coastal and Water Research website and at Washington Technology.com.

Photo caption: A flood forecasting prototype to help people and communities become more resilient during flooding events has earned a 2020 Government Innovation Award. UL Lafayette and tech company CGI developed the prototype. It discovers and curates large amounts of data that is integrated and interpreted with artificial intelligence. Photo credit: University of Louisiana at Lafayette