Three Finalists Selected in $5M IBM Watson AI XPRIZE Competition

Feb 16 2021

Focusing on Human Trafficking, Malaria, and Mental Health, Three Teams Advance to the Grand Prize in Competition Aimed at Developing AI Solutions to Tackle Global Challenges


LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA  February 16, 2021 — Today, XPRIZE – the world’s leader in designing and operating incentive competitions to solve humanity’s grand challenges – announced the three  finalist teams advancing in the $5M IBM Watson AI XPRIZE, a five-year global competition that aims to demonstrate how humans can collaborate with powerful artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing our world. The finalist teams were selected out of a pool of 10 semifinalists following presentations of their innovative AI solutions to a distinguished panel of judges during an event held at TED headquarters in New York City in 2020.


The three finalist teams are:

●  Aifred Health (Montreal, Canada): A digital health company focused on clinical decision support in mental health, starting with depression. The team’s solution uses AI to learn from thousands of patients to personalize treatment choice to increase response rates to front-line therapy and to reduce the time it takes for a patient to enter remission. IBM Watson Health is providing Aifred Health with millions of records of observational depression data to improve their ML models

●  Marinus Analytics (Pittsburgh, PA):A woman-owned company founded in 2014 out of Carnegie Mellon Robotics. Marinus Analytics uses AI to get actionable insights out of big data to empower a victim-centered response and serve experts working on the front lines of public safety. The company's flagship tool, Traffic Jam, revolutionizes the way detectives are able to stop and prevent human trafficking, recover victims, and dismantle organized criminal networks, by deploying graph analytics to detect organized crime and purpose-driven algorithms to identify vulnerability indicators, informing frontline professionals to hidden exploitation. Marinus Analytics has used IBM Watson Discovery and IBM Watson Assistant to extend their Traffic Jam application, aiding investigation into financial fraud and the illicit flow of proceeds to international crime groups. 

●  Zzapp Malaria (Jerusalem, Israel): A startup that is committed to the eradication of malaria through larviciding - targeting the breeding sites of the disease-bearing mosquitoes. ZzappMalaria’s AI predicts where stagnant water bodies will occur and manages their effective treatment. Its app is adapted for low-connectivity environments and works on simple, low-cost phones common in developing countries. The system is currently deployed in Ghana, Tanzania, and Ethiopia. ZzappMalaria has created custom models, built with tools like IBM Watson Studio, IBM Watson Machine Learning, and IBM PAIRS Geoscope, to predict the number of small water bodies caused by weather, enabling it to optimize the timing for launching larviciding operations.


Sponsored by IBM Watson, the AI XPRIZE aims to accelerate adoption of AI technologies’ role in solving some of the world’s greatest challenges while also encouraging better human collaboration with AI to develop creative, innovative, altruistic and audacious applications that are truly scalable.

“Use of AI in ethical fashion is a key part of building a brighter future for all as its use will continue to transform how we live, work, and communicate as part of our everyday lives,” said Anousheh Ansari, CEO of XPRIZE. “Aifred Health, Marinus Analytics, and Zzapp Malaria have used this powerful technology to change the game in their respective fields. We are looking forward to seeing firsthand the positive impact they will have on our future.”


Thirty-four qualifying teams were compared by an independent judging panel across a set of performance categories, including technical performance, real-world impact, future impact, and ethics. These comparison scores were combined by an AI algorithm created and customized to propose a ranking of all teams. The ranking was presented within an interactive visualization to judges who then decided on the final list of top 10 teams for the semifinals. The semifinalist teams presented their solutions to the judges and live audience at TED headquarters in New York City, where the finalists were chosen. The independent judging panel included academics, NGO professionals, and venture capital industry professionals with deep expertise in AI and a variety of application backgrounds including healthcare, ethics, education and more.

“IBM Watson AI XPRIZE showcases the "art of the possible" when the power of AI is unleashed to help address some of society's toughest challenges,” said Daniel Hernandez, General Manager, IBM Data and AI. "It is truly inspiring to see Watson and good tech in action across all three teams."

The IBM Watson AI XPRIZE competition will conclude in June 2021 with the final round, where the finalists’ AI technology will up for a $3 million Grand Prize, $1 million Second Place Prize, and $500k Third Place Prize. 

For more information about the competition and finalist teams please visit



XPRIZE, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is the global leader in designing and implementing innovative competition models to solve the world’s grandest challenges. Active competitions include the $20 Million NRG COSIA Carbon XPRIZE, $10 Million XPRIZE Rainforest, $10 Million ANA Avatar XPRIZE, $6 Million XPRIZE Rapid COVID Testing, the $5 Million IBM Watson AI XPRIZE, $5 Million XPRIZE Rapid Reskilling, and $500K Pandemic Response Challenge. For more information, visit


IBM Watson

Watson is IBM’s AI technology for business, helping organizations to better predict and shape future outcomes, automate complex processes, and optimize employees’ time. Watson has evolved from an IBM Research project, to experimentation, to a scaled, open set of products that run anywhere. With more than 30,000 client engagements, Watson is being applied by leading global brands across a variety of industries to transform how people work. To learn more, visit: