The monitoring of endangered coral reef in the Philippines has been enhanced through an artificial intelligence (AI) alliance between Accenture, Intel and the Sulubaaï Environmental Foundation.
Designed to “monitor, characterise and analyse” coral reef resiliency, the collaboration centres around the deployment of smart technologies delivered through Project: CORaiL, which was launched in 2019.
The two technology giants partnered with Sulubaaï for the initiative, which operates as a non-profit organisation focused on "conserving, protecting and restoring" the natural resources of Palawan through environmentally sustainable practices and active ecosystem restoration. Founded in 2012, the Philippine-based group predominantly serves Pangatalan Island and its surroundings in Shark Bay.
The project focuses on identifying the number and variety of fish living around a reef, which serves as a crucial indicator of overall marine health. Traditional coral reef monitoring efforts involve human divers manually capturing video footage and photos of the reef, with such an approach cited as “dangerous and time-intensive”.
In response, engineers from Accenture, Intel and Sulubaaï implemented an artificial, concrete reef - known as Sulu-Reef Prosthesis (SRP) - to provide support for unstable coral fragments underwater. Designed by Sulubaaï, the SRP was placed in the reef surrounding Pangatalan Island, with fragments of living coral planted on it to ensure growth and expansion, thereby providing a hybrid habitat for fish and marine life.
The engineers then "strategically placed" intelligent underwater video cameras, equipped with the Accenture Applied Intelligence Video Analytics Services Platform (VASP) to detect and photograph fish as they pass by.
The offering leverages AI, powered by Intel's Xeon, FPGA Programmable Acceleration Cards and Movidius VPU to count and classify the marine life. Such data is then sent to a surface dashboard, providing analytics and trends to researchers on the ground in real-time.
“The value of your data depends on how quickly you can glean insights to make decisions from it,” said Athina Kanioura, chief analytics officer at Accenture. “With the ability to do real-time analysis on streaming video, VASP enables us to tap into a rich data source - in effect doing ‘hands on’ monitoring without disrupting the underwater environment.”
Since being deployed in May 2019, the solution has collected roughly 40,000 images, which researchers have used to gauge reef health in real-time.
“AI provides unprecedented opportunities to solve some of society’s most vexing problems,” added Jason Mitchell, managing director of Communications, Media and Technology at Accenture. “Our ecosystem of corporate and social partners for this ‘AI for social good’ project proves that strength in numbers can make a positive environmental impact.”
Engineers from Accenture and Intel are already at work on the next-gen Project: CORaiL prototype, which will include an optimised convolutional neural network and a back-up power supply.
Plans are also in place to assess infra-red cameras to enable videos at night, with the aim of providing a "complete picture" of the coral ecosystem. Additional uses could include studying the migration rate of tropical fish to colder countries and monitoring intrusion in protected or restricted underwater areas.
“Project: CORaiL is an incredible example of how AI and edge computing can be used to help researchers monitor and restore the coral reef,” said Rose Schooler, corporate vice president of sales and marketing at Intel. “We are very proud to partner with Accenture and the Sulubaaï Environmental Foundation on this important effort to protect our planet.”
Coral reefs represent some of the world’s most diverse ecosystems, with more than eight hundred species of corals building and providing habitats and shelter for approximately 25 per cent of global marine life.