Microsoft’s data-sharing platform for AI developers comes to Ireland

27 Oct 2021

Image: © Murrstock/

Since its launch last year, Microsoft Trove has been used by AI developers to source images from the public to help train machine learning models.

Microsoft is making its Trove platform available in Ireland. Trove allows researchers to source and buy data shared by the public to inform AI projects and improve machine learning algorithms.

The platform was first launched in the US in May of last year as part of Microsoft Garage, a programme that lets employees focus on passion projects. It was billed as a marketplace app that would allow ordinary people to contribute photographic data to AI projects, which developers could use to train machine learning models.

In September 2020, Microsoft announced that contributors could be paid for their submissions. PayPal was integrated with the Trove app on iOS and Android.

Trove developers sought to make the platform more transparent than traditional methods of passive data collection, which often fail to sufficiently engage the person sharing the data. Krishnan Raghupathi, a former Trove senior programme manager, said Microsoft wanted to create “a community where people are a key part of the project”.

“You can have the transparency of how your data is being used and actually want to opt in to contribute to these projects and advance science and AI,” Raghupathi said in a blog post last year.

Everyone who has an image approved by a developer in Trove is paid for their photo. They can also read a description of the purpose of the project the image is being used for, as well as directly communicate with developers to ask questions and decide how photos are used.

Coming to Ireland

Images secured through Trove have already helped developers across mainland Europe to roll out an array of AI projects. Dutch social enterprise TechTics purchased 2,000 images through Trove to inform the programming of its litter-cleaning bot. The bot was trained to recognise images of cigarette butts to aid in disposing them.

“Every day, developers and researchers are finding creative ways to leverage AI to solve tough societal challenges and unlock business innovation,” said Bibhas Bhattacharya, Azure lead for Microsoft Ireland.

“Whether they’re training a computer vision model to identify washed up waste on beaches or developing a machine learning algorithm to process business expenses through scanned pictures of receipts, they need access to data and quality images to ensure their success.

“That’s why we’re launching Trove in Ireland. As a responsible data-sharing platform for developers, Trove can build trusted connections between the people who depend on data and those who have it.”

Microsoft said that security and privacy are strictly monitored on Trove, and images that could identify individuals are deleted.

Developers in Ireland who wish to avail of Trove’s services have to complete an onboarding process that asks them about the data that will be collected, how it will be used, examples of data they are looking for, how many photos they want to collect and how much will they pay data providers. They are also given a guide on the rules around collecting data from the public.

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Blathnaid O’Dea was a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic until 2024.