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Project CORail: Protecting Earth’s Coral Reefs With AI

Coral reefs are one of the most diverse ecosystems on Earth. It protects coastlines against tropical typhoons and provides habitat and shelter for around 25% marine species. It is responsible for the food and income of one billion people on the planet, not to mention that it has reeled in $9.6 billion in tourism.

With these in mind, humans have devised methods to pull out the ocean’s full capacity, mostly for revenue. This mindset has brought about several negative factors such as overfishing, global warming, and coral mining. This has caused the reefs to degrade at an exponential rate.

Project CORail

To collect data for research and avoid the reefs from completely dying out, Accenture, Intel, and the Sulubaaï Environmental Foundation announced Project: CORaiL during this year’s Earth Day. The project is backed by artificial intelligence (AI), with the task of monitoring, characterizing, and analyzing coral reef resiliency.

Collecting reef data

The abundance and diversity of the species that live in the location is one main indicator of the reef’s health. Traditional monitoring methods would need human divers for underwater data collection, manual video footage recording, and photography.

Although these techniques are reliable and efficient, divers are only limited to 30 minutes underwater for photo and video taking. The divers might also interfere with the natural wildlife behavior, and in turn, might adversely affect the data results.

Project CORail

With the design provided by Sulubaaï, the engineers built a Sulu-Reef Prosthesis, which is a concrete underwater platform that will provide stable support for fragmented corals. The Sulu-Reef Prosthesis involves live coral pieces to grow within it, providing a hybrid home for marine life.

Smart underwater video cameras equipped with the Accenture Applied Intelligence Video Analytics Services Platform (VASP) is strategically placed to detect and photograph marine species as they pass by the habitat. Using AI, VASP can count and classify the species. The data is sent directly to a surface dashboard, where researchers can track the activities in the system and make decisions based on the results.

Project CORail

Athina Kanioura, Accenture’s chief analytics officer and Accenture Applied Intelligence lead stated that “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.” Project: CORaiL was launched in May 2019 to the reef surrounding Pangatalan Island in Palawan, Philippines. So far, the project has collected over 40,000 images, progressing research on the reef’s health.

Photo credit: The images used are owned by Accenture and have been provided for press usage through Intel.

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Elaine Espiritu
Elaine Espiritu
A semi-biochemistry student, an advocate, and a local politician