In India, the Internet of Birds is starting to take off

3 Jan 2017

Kingfisher bird in India. Image: Jpiks/Shutterstock

With help from Accenture, anyone in India can now contribute to ornithology with the development of a new AI platform called Internet of Birds, which aims to quickly identify species of birds from photos using machine learning.

The Internet of Birds platform is the result of a collaboration between Accenture and the Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), a 133-year-old non-governmental organisation undertaking nature conservation research.

Over this time, the organisation has been working to catalogue the huge number of bird species in the country that has, understandably, proven challenging, given the sheer scale of the country.

Accenture and the BNHS said that this new AI platform uses machine learning and computer vision to quickly and accurately identify bird species from digital photos that are uploaded by the public.

Available to anyone, anywhere, for free, Internet of Birds uses a citizen crowdsourcing approach to engage more people in birdwatching by identifying key species of birds and inspiring an interest in nature conservation.

Amateur birdwatching on the rise

To put some perspective on the task at hand for the ornithologists, India is home to almost 12.5pc of the world’s avifauna (birds of a particular habitat), consisting of 1,300 species.

So far, this new platform is capable of identifying approximately 100 species, but aims to eventually support all species found in India.

“We believe AI has significant untapped potential to improve the way we work and live, and we’re attracted to this project because it’s this kind of innovation and exploration that is needed to begin tackling big issues,” said Sanjay Podder, managing director of Accenture Labs, Bangalore.

Adding to this, the director of the BNHS, Dr Deepak Apte, said: “Birds are excellent indicators of their environment, providing ecological information based on when and where they’re located.

“With the rise of amateur birdwatchers across India, we are happy to have Accenture help us capitalise on all the information they can capture. This helps us encourage citizen science by involving more people in nature conservation activities.”

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Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic