Using Intel AI to Stop Poachers and Protect Endangered Animals in the Serengeti
Non-profit RESOLVE’s new TrailGuard AI camera uses Intel-powered artificial intelligence (AI) technology to detect poachers entering Africa’s wildlife reserves and alert park rangers in near real-time so poachers can be stopped before killing endangered animals.
”By pairing AI technology with human decision-makers, we can solve some of our greatest challenges, including illegal poaching of endangered animals. With TrailGuard AI, Intel’s Movidius technology enables the camera to capture suspected poacher images and alerts park rangers, who will ultimately decide the most appropriate response,” said Anna Bethke, head of AI for Social Good at Intel Corporation.
TrailGuard AI uses Intel Movidius Vision Processing Units (VPUs) for image processing, running deep neural network algorithms for object detection and image classification inside the camera. If humans are detected among any of the motion-activated images captured by the camera, it triggers electronic alerts to park personnel so they can mobilize rangers before poachers can do harm.
According to National Geographic, an elephant is killed every 15 minutes by a poacher, at a rate of approximately 35,000 elephants per year. In a decade, experts predict there won’t be any more elephants. Rhinos, gorillas, tigers and other large mammals are also in danger from poachers, as are giraffes, antelopes and wildebeest that are often caught in poachers’ snares.
TrailGuard AI uses deep neural network algorithms that allow the device to recognize humans and vehicles with a high degree of accuracy. TrailGuard AI builds upon the success of RESOLVE’s first-generation TrailGuard camera deployed in protected reserves that alerts rangers any time it detects motion. With the first-generation camera, rangers receive many photos that they had to manually review to determine if there is a poaching threat or a false-positive triggered by other motion. By adding an additional layer of AI into the system, TrailGuard AI intelligently knows when a potential poacher is present, allowing park rangers to rapidly intercept and apprehend.
According to the company, TrailGuard AI is powered by the tiny yet VPU, which delivers visual intelligence to the camera itself, resulting in several important benefits:
Fewer false-positives: Instead of alerting the rangers anytime there is motion in front of the camera, including from shifting cloud cover, birds and animals, TrailGuard AI only sends images to the rangers when a person or vehicle is detected. Fewer false-positives means rangers have more time to focus on their work, instead of spending their time looking through hundreds of false alerts each day.
Longer battery life: The Intel Movidius VPU powers all of TrailGuard AI’s processing needs – from wake-on-motion to image processing to AI inference to communication protocols—all while running at very low power. It is designed to perform in the wild for up to 1.5 years without depleting the battery. This is a great improvement over the original TrailGuard that has a separate computing unit requiring rangers undertake the time-consuming and often dangerous task of field maintenance every four to six weeks. TrailGuard AI’s longer battery life also means less foot-traffic around the hidden cameras, which could alert poachers to their location.
Smaller in size: Due to the miniscule size of the Intel Movidius VPU, TrailGuard AI is about the size of a pencil and easier to hide and camouflage from poachers and wild animals.
“The Intel Movidius VPU allowed us to revolutionize TrailGuard AI by adding artificial intelligence to a proven end-to-end solution to stop illegal poaching around the world,” said Eric Dinerstein, director of biodiversity and wildlife at RESOLVE. “In addition to providing the AI technology, Intel engineers worked closely with us to build, test and optimize this incredible anti-poaching solution that will make a real difference in saving animals.”
In partnership with the National Geographic Society, Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and others, TrailGuard AI will be deployed in 100 reserves in Africa throughout 2019, starting with Serengeti and Garamba, with plans to expand to Southeast Asia and South America.
* Lead image used for representational purposes only.