Accenture's smart technology to enable coral reef conservation

11 February 2021 3 min. read
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Accenture is helping the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) with a technology upgrade – aimed at improving coral reef monitoring and conservation efforts.

The project has three target outcomes. One is to scale AIMS’ tech infrastructure and migrate to the cloud, enabling better and faster data sharing and analysis. The second is to endow AIMS’ coral reef monitoring systems with advanced technology such as artificial intelligence.

Third – signaling a long-term collaboration – Accenture will work on purposeful technology development to meet various needs across the coral reef stakeholder ecosystem. A suite of solutions to this end is already in the making, after a period of experimentation at The Dock – Accenture’s leading global research & development centre. 

Smart technology to enable coral reef conservation

“This project began with a team at The Dock working to identify ways to use artificial intelligence to help the environment,” explained Richard McNiff, rapid innovation director at The Dock.

“We started to explore new computer vision approaches to monitor coral resilience and quickly realised that by bringing together Accenture’s technology and design expertise with AIMS’ incredible knowledge and data, we could add real value to global reef conservation efforts. It was an immensely rewarding experience for our team to apply their skills to such an important topic.”

Preservation imperative
And the topic is important from several perspectives. Most in the scientific community agree that coral reefs are dying – mainly at the hands of climate change driven phenomena such as warmer sea temperatures, tropical storms, ocean acidification and pollution. According to Accenture, 75% of the global coral reef is at risk, destroying habitats and putting a quarter of the world’s marine life under threat.

Environmental damage aside, the reefs also provide food and livelihood for one billion people worldwide according to the consulting firm. As the largest coral reef in the world, Australia’s Great Barrier Reef is the epicentre of these developments – providing tens of thousands of jobs for Australians.

“The Great Barrier Reef holds significant value for Australia in terms of its natural beauty but also the economic value it contributes to the Australian economy,” said Tara Brady, country managing director for Accenture Australia and New Zealand.

Deloitte report from 2017 estimated the economic value of the Great Barrier Reef at $56 billion. Per a BBC report from last year, the reef has lost half of all its corals since 1995. Conservation is of the essence, and the new technology is set to help this along.

“The use of cloud computing, real time analytics and other emerging technologies to support the valuable work provided by organisations such as AIMS will be vital to protecting the reef now and into the future,” added Brady.

Manuel Gonzalez Rivero, senior research scientist at AIMS expressed his faith in the project. “Through our work with Accenture we seek to bring innovative and transformative change to the way we monitor our reefs. The purposeful development of these technologies will benefit nations across the world towards gaining efficiency in coral reef monitoring and fostering integrative efforts to better manage our reef systems.”

Preserving the barrier reef is one of many urgent initiatives needed for Australia’s battle against climate change – which experts suggest could cost the country $3.4 trillion by 2070 if no action is taken.