Coral reefs are an essential element in our global ecosystem, offering shelter to a quarter of marine life and providing a food source, income, and coastal buffer to over 500 million people across the globe. Yet because of rising ocean temperatures, which results in coral bleaching (check out TechRepublic’s coverage of how tech is helping protect the Great Barrier Reef) as well as overfishing and reckless coastal development, coral reefs are endangered: Half of the Great Barrier Reef is dead.

Today, to celebrate the 50th annual Earth Day, Intel, Accenture, and the Sulubaaï Environmental Foundation (SEF) present Project: CORaiL. The joint initiative will use the power of artificial intelligence (AI) “to monitor, recreate, and restore coral reefs,” according to the release.

SEE: Earth Day 2020 (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

To gauge the reef health, Project: CORail calculated the number and type of fish in a reef.

While the monitoring of coral reefs has typically been left to human divers, who take video footage and photographs manually–often disrupting aquatic life–the artificial, concrete reef (called a Sulu-Reef Prosthesis) developed by engineers on the team was placed in the reef to create a hybrid environment. Intelligent video cameras were placed underwater to identify fish. According to the release, the cameras were “equipped with the Accenture Applied Intelligence Video Analytics Services Platform (VASP),” using AI, and using tech from Intex to “count and classify the marine life.” Then, the data could be gathered and used to inform decisions to improve reef health.

Image: 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,” said Athina Kanioura, Accenture’s chief analytics officer and Accenture Applied Intelligence lead.

Altogether, around 40,000 images have been collected since Project: CORail launched nearly a year ago, in May 2019.

“Artificial intelligence provides unprecedented opportunities to solve some of society’s most vexing problems,” said Jason Mitchell, a managing director in Accenture’s Communications, Media & Technology practice and the company’s client lead for Intel, in the press release. “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.”

Image: Accenture