New detection technology to help fight against wildlife trafficking
Smiths Detection has collaborated with Microsoft and Heathrow in the development of what is being described as the first of its kind multi-species AI model designed to uncover illegally trafficked wildlife concealed in baggage and air cargo.
It is claimed that initial testing of the algorithm at Heathrow has shown a success rate of over 70% in identifying trafficked animals, including ivory.
As part of Project SEEKER, an extensive library of X-ray images taken from Smiths Detection’s CTX 9800 baggage scanners at Heathrow were used to train the Microsoft AI for Good model.
The machines can screen up to 250,000 bags a day, generating a multitude of data for inspection.
Globally, illegal wildlife trafficking is among the five most lucrative global crimes and is often run by highly organised criminal networks.
Combatting wildlife trafficking could therefore cut off revenue streams to organised crime and help stop animal poaching in its tracks. Tackling the issue could also contribute to the reduction of Zoonotic diseases (animal to human) which have been recently linked to wildlife trafficking.
“We’re incredibly pleased with the initial results of this trial, which have been achieved by combining Smiths Detection’s and Microsoft’s technologies to create a usable solution for this very real problem,” said Smith Detection’s market director for aviation, Richard Thompson.
“We’re very much looking forward to strengthening our collaboration with Microsoft further as we work towards our respective ambitions of using AI for good and making the world a safer, better place.”
Heathrow’s security director, Jonathan Coen, enthused: “Project SEEKER will help us keep one step ahead of traffickers by exploring new technology that will help us protect the world’s most precious wildlife.”
While Microsoft’s data and artificial intelligence solution specialist, Daniel Haines, said that he believed the new technology would empower screeners working on the frontline of illegal wildlife trafficking to better detect, seize and investigate trafficked items and the criminal network behind them.
He said: “Following this successful trial, we’re calling for major transport hubs including airports to deploy the technology and put the model to work on regional illegal wildlife trafficked priorities along with NGOs and law enforcement agencies to share intelligence data. Together, we can stop illegal wildlife trafficking in its tracks.”
Project SEEKER was presented today at an event hosted by Microsoft with The Royal Foundation and the Duke of Cambridge. The charity, which supports the work of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, is committed to tackling the trafficking of wildlife products and forms partnerships with businesses to identify and implement solutions.