Smiths Detection to develop AI tool to uncover wildlife trafficking

Smiths Detection has collaborated with Microsoft and Heathrow Airport to develop an AI model designed to uncover illegally trafficked wildlife concealed in baggage and air cargo.

As part of ‘Project SEEKER’, a library of X-ray images taken from Smiths Detection’s CTX 9800 baggage scanners at Heathrow were used to train the Microsoft AI model, which can screen up to 250,000 bags a day.

Initial testing of the algorithm, which took place at Heathrow, has shown a success rate of over 70 per cent in identifying trafficked animals, including ivory, the company said.

“The trial has demonstrated that using AI-powered technology to automatically uncover threats and contraband significantly reduces operator burden,” said Smiths Detection’s market director, 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.”

Commenting on the importance of combatting illegal wildlife trafficking, Smiths Detection said it could cut off revenue streams to organised crime, help stop animal poaching, and contribute to the reduction of Zoonotic diseases.

“SEEKER is a testament to the impact we can make when we work collaboratively across the private and public sector,” added Microsoft data and artificial intelligence solution specialist Daniel Haines.

“This tool can be deployed with existing screening and security infrastructure and can empower those working on the frontline of illegal wildlife trafficking to better detect, seize and investigate trafficked items and the criminal network behind them.

“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.”

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