IBM's 2020 Call for Code Challenge invites developers from around the world to submit their open source technology solutions to climate change. In the past, the tech company sought practical applications for disaster relief, which led to a flood-proof WiFi network and a tool for monitoring firefighter health.
"The first two years we challenged this community to help mitigate the challenges of natural disasters, so it was after the fact," Bob Lord, IBM senior vice president of cognitive applications and developer ecosystems, told Cheddar.
Now IBM wants solutions that get out in front of climate change, a shift in focus partially inspired by the company's partnership with the United Nations. The international body has called for a "global reality check" on climate change and has put out a rallying cry for fresh solutions.
Lord said this pushed IBM to pivot toward using the challenge to better understand climate change, whether that means tracking the weather or tracking our behaviors.
"What kind of information do you need? How do you change your behaviors on a daily basis to halt the challenges that we're starting to see with climate change?" Lord said.
Another goal for the challenge is to help collate and organize the data sets related to climate change, he added.
IBM will provide participants with access to its full stack of open source software, including Red Hat OpenShift, IBM Cloud, IBM Watson, and IBM Blockchain.
The challenge is not just about sourcing new ideas, Lord said, but implementing them in the real world. In addition to the $200,000 prize money for the winning team, IBM provides guidance and hands-on support to projects, which so far has yielded results for past winners.
Project Owl, which won in 2018, has begun to deploy its emergency Wi-Fi networks in disaster zones. Prometeo, the firefighter monitoring device that won in 2019, is in the process of testing its device before rolling it out for wider use.
"Every year it sort of evolves based on what we learned in the year one and year two," Lord said. "We will move the topic where the community wants to go, and right now climate change is a really relevant topic for all of us."