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  • Camille Goldstone-Henry

How Augmented Intelligence Can Advance Wildlife Conservation

Feature article for HATCH: Taronga Accelerator Program

Camille Goldstone-Henry, Founder of Xylo Systems, and is participating in HATCH: Taronga Accelerator Program. Join us for the HATCH Pitch Event on Thursday 28th October to hear more about Xylo Systems and other brilliant environmental initiatives – register here.

In this guest feature, Camille takes a look into how an innovative technology that is changing the world could be harnessed for good to turbocharge wildlife conservation.

A 2019 UN Global Assessment Report warned that the rate of species extinctions is accelerating. More than 1 million species are threatened with extinction, and here in Australia, over 3 billion animals were displaced or killed during the Black Summer Bushfires of 2019/2020 (WWF 2020). Here are some more alarming figures:

  • Since European settlement, Australia has lost over 100 species

  • A species goes extinct every 3-5 minutes

  • Australia has the highest rate of mammal extinctions in the world

But there is hope, that same 2019 UN report stated that through transformative change, there is still time to conserve and restore our earth’s biodiversity. For what is a critical time for wildlife, we also find ourselves in a time of drastic technological progress, the Information Age. With cloud computing, innovative devices, and the explosion of data, we can share information and are more connected than ever. Could innovative technology like Xylo Systems be the key to rapidly saving our species?

(Image source: Brad Fleet Photography 2020)

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is an emerging technology that is spreading at a rapid pace and clearly has a promising future in the world of technology. The disruptive power of technology is a global megatrend and AI is no small player in this game. Tech companies are beginning to think of AI in a unique way, as they understand the benefits that can be achieved from combining human and AI capabilities. This has resulted in an exciting new subset of AI known as Augmented Intelligence (IA). So, what exactly is Augmented Intelligence? And what does it have to do with wildlife conservation?

What is augmented intelligence (IA)?

Augmented Intelligence (IA) is a subset of AI designed to enhance human decision-making. IA is not designed to replace systems (like AI) but to do the legwork of finding information necessary to inform better decision-making. IA is the intersection between human intelligence and artificial intelligence, the ‘goldilocks’ zone of working smarter and better. Like virtual assistants including Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, the ultimate goal of IA systems is to augment the work, expertise and experience of any user. From a field worker to a CEO, IA can empower users with machines that continually access, interpret, apply, and learn from the meaning hidden within all forms of data. Decision-making using IA is forecast by Gartner to derive $2.5 billion worth of business value by 2025, making it the fastest growing AI initiative over the next 5 years.

(Image source: QuantumBlack 2018)

How does augmented intelligence work?

A platform that utilises IA can gather many types of data (structured and unstructured) from multiple sources, across siloed systems, and present data in a way that gives human users a holistic view of specific questions. Examples include, online stores using data analytics to predict customer preferences, medical analysis of case files to identify efficient treatment options, and predictive maintenance of factory equipment based on past data. IA has applications in any industry that can utilise big data for patterns and predictive indicators.

Where does augmented intelligence fit in wildlife conservation?

Using big data from multiple sources, could IA have predicted the catastrophic impact of the Black Summer bushfires on vulnerable wildlife populations and helped us to create proactive and agile intervention methods? Conversely, suboptimal and reactive decisions made without a clear picture of what is happening with threatened species significantly impact species recovery efforts, cost organisations and governments billions in already finite conservation resources and further accelerate species extinction.

Wildlife conservation is fast entering a big data boom which, unless harnessed, could leave us with a big data problem. The increasing use of innovative technologies in conservation, such as drones, thermal imaging, camera traps, and rapid genomic sequencing in the cloud, is generating massive amounts of data on our most threatened species. Integrating these new data sources with existing conservation information sources using an IA digital platform, like the platform we are building at Xylo Systems, could empower decision-makers to make rapid and agile species management decisions in response to environmental catastrophes like bushfires.

(Image source: The Guardian)

Using the best available data sources, an IA digital platform will turbocharge the way threatened species are managed in Australia and globally; significantly reducing the time and cost of saving endangered species and providing decision-makers with holistic information for proactive solutions.

IA has the power to increase conservation efficiency by giving conservationists a complete 360-degree view of threatened species programs to make smarter, faster and better decisions. Many industries are harnessing the power of IA and technology to create value; it’s time for wildlife conservation to harness this incredible power to preserve biodiversity for future generations.

Taronga Zoo Sydney Taronga Conservation Society Australia is a leader in the fields of conservation, research, animal welfare, wildlife rehabilitation and environmental education. Taronga is a not-for-profit organisation with an absolute commitment to conservation and securing a shared future for wildlife and people.

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