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New Zealand Deploys Tech for Coastal Safety

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Despite the utilisation of artificial intelligence (AI) in forecasting climate change, the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and a life-saving organisation have collaborated to employ this technology in New Zealand for real-time detection of rip currents, providing a lifeline to beachgoers who may struggle to spot these hazardous phenomena.

Rips, narrow segments of water that can move faster than two metres per second, pose a significant threat to swimmers, especially children, who may find it challenging to recognise and navigate these swift currents. The AI tool, a collaborative effort between NIWA and Surf Life-Saving New Zealand, aims to enhance beach safety by offering a reliable means of identifying rip currents in real-time.

Dr Christo Rautenbach, a coastal and estuarine scientist at NIWA, is at the forefront of this initiative. With expertise in understanding coastal dynamics, Dr Rautenbach has played a crucial role in the development of the AI tool. Collaborating closely with Adam Wooler, the Head of Coastal Safety and Research at a surf life-saving organisation in New Zealand.

Dr Rautenbach and Wooler shed light on the dangers associated with rip currents and how the AI tool has been instrumental in mitigating these risks. They emphasised that the tool’s primary objective is to provide real-time detection of rip currents, a task that is often challenging for even experienced beachgoers.

Rip currents are a significant danger to beachgoers in New Zealand, with 90 people drowning in the country last year, 25 of them on beaches. Surf life-saving organisations in New Zealand have recognised the urgent need to address the threat posed by rip currents, given the alarming statistics. In the past year alone, 90 people tragically lost their lives to drowning in New Zealand, with 25 of these incidents occurring on beaches. Understanding the gravity of the situation, the surf life-saving organisation in New Zealand has intensified its efforts to enhance beach safety and mitigate the risks associated with rip currents.

Dr Rautenbach explained, “Rip currents are notoriously difficult to identify, and their speed can be deceptive. This poses a serious risk to swimmers, especially young ones who might not be aware of the dangers. The AI tool we’ve developed is a game-changer in beach safety, as it can quickly and accurately detect rip currents, allowing lifeguards and beachgoers to take preventive measures.”

Surf life-saving organisations in New Zealand have integrated AI tools into their coastal safety and monitoring protocols, enhancing their ability to respond promptly to potential dangers. The technology utilises advanced algorithms to analyse oceanic patterns and swiftly identify the telltale signs of rip currents. By providing real-time data, the tool allows lifeguards and authorities to issue timely warnings and ensure the safety of beach enthusiasts.

Adam expressed his optimism about the positive impact the AI tool has had on their coastal safety efforts. “The collaboration with NIWA has been instrumental in developing this cutting-edge technology. Our goal is to make our beaches safer for everyone, and the AI tool is a significant step towards achieving that objective. It complements our existing safety measures and adds an extra layer of protection for beachgoers.”

As technology continues to play a crucial role in safeguarding lives, the integration of artificial intelligence in beach safety measures marks a significant advancement. The success of the AI tool in detecting rip currents in real-time not only enhances the effectiveness of lifeguard efforts but also empowers individuals to make informed decisions about their safety while enjoying the ocean.

The collaboration between NIWA and surf life-saving organisation in New Zealand has given rise to a pioneering AI tool that addresses a longstanding challenge in beach safety. By providing a means to identify rip currents in real-time, this technology is set to revolutionise the way tech approaches coastal safety, making beaches safer and more enjoyable for everyone.


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