Project SEEKER: Using Artificial Intelligence for Good
Project SEEKER is a pioneer of multi-species artificial intelligence (AI) models built using Microsoft Azure Machine Learning Services. It can automatically detect illegally trafficked wildlife hidden in baggage and cargo.
Illegal wildlife trafficking is worth $23 billion a year1. This makes it the fourth largest illegal trade in the world, after drugs, weapons and human trafficking.2. One of the biggest challenges in protecting endangered wildlife species is that it is a massively unregulated industry. Often, this trade goes hand in hand with other organized crimes, including corruption and money laundering.
While Microsoft is engaged in many important biodiversity projects, Project SEEKER is a one-of-a-kind initiative to use bespoke Microsoft AI to curb trade. Currently, there are no integrated and multi-species illegal wildlife algorithms on the market.
The project is a Microsoft AI for Good research project developed by a team from the UK and US focused on disrupting illegal wildlife trafficking.
Following a recent trial at London Heathrow Airport, Microsoft’s Project SEEKER has proven its ability to detect illegal wildlife elements concealed in baggage and cargo, capabilities that are lacking in current systems. airport control and security.
The SEEKER trial has recorded a success rate of over 70% in detecting ivory products, as well as a range of breakthrough detection successes for a range of wildlife species. Using Microsoft Azure Stack Edge, the technology can be integrated with current airport screening infrastructure to detect all cash.
SEEKER, when used in conjunction with other Microsoft technologies such as the Project 15 platform, can create insights for global law enforcement teams to better see what is being investigated. traffic, where the wildlife comes from and where it goes.
Project 15 is an open ecosystem conservation and sustainability platform that brings the latest Microsoft cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to accelerate science teams building solutions such as species tracking and observation , poaching prevention, ecosystem monitoring and pollution detection. With a better understanding of criminal tactics and illegal business models, private and public sector organizations and law enforcement agencies can now take informed action against the networks driving the trade.
Project SEEKER technology can be used alongside existing airport screening and security infrastructure. Its AI can scan 3D computed tomography (CT) x-ray luggage images to automatically detect a variety of animal species using specially developed artificial intelligence. This AI can both interpret the characteristics of the object and determine the atomic density of the items in the checked bags.
The technology was trained on real objects seized by UK border officials, as well as data created using a new approach to detecting threats. Bags containing illegally trafficked wildlife are compared to thousands of ‘see-through’ passenger bags used in model training to ensure accuracy and recall, resulting in low false alarm rates .
Since SEEKER is used as part of the normal security process, it could be used for other trafficked objects that contribute to the profits of organized criminals. These may include prohibited travel or contraband items, such as prohibited foodstuffs.
Because Project SEEKER is built on Microsoft’s global Azure cloud platform, this data can be analyzed to create a comprehensive and detailed picture of illegal wildlife trafficking across the globe. It was developed in conjunction with the United Kingdom Border Force’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) team, London Heathrow Airport and its main enforcement partner, and the Duke of Cambridge’s Royal Foundation.
Recently, the Duke of Cambridge visited Microsoft’s UK headquarters to learn about the potential of this technology as part of his work with the Royal Foundation’s United for Wildlife programme. He is a strong supporter of the development and deployment of this innovative technology.
Team members are now working to build an initial group of early adopters. This will be key to improving SEEKER’s capabilities in combating the illegal wildlife trade.
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1Wildlife Crime: A $23 Billion Trade Destroying Our Planet—World Economic Forum.
2Is the Illegal Wildlife Trade the Fourth Largest in the World?—Complete Fact.