Intel® AI for Social Good: Getting Technology into the Hands of the Communities That Need It

Anna Bethke, Head of AI for Social Good at Intel, explains how AI is helping to deal with environmental, healthcare and social issues around the world

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is set to disrupt entire industries as the technology becomes more advanced. And while AI can help organisations to gain valuable business insights, it's not just about profits. AI can also be used to address important social issues around the globe. Intel recognises this and is committed to developing uses of AI that have a positive impact on the world as part of its Intel® AI for Social Good initiative.

“The overall aim of this initiative is to use the technology we've created to help as many individuals as possible”

"AI can be used in so many different ways," said Anna Bethke, Head of AI for Social Good at Intel. "The overall aim of this initiative is to use the technology we've created to help as many individuals as possible."

Bethke is passionate about the project that she heads up and has a strong background in technology, which grew from an early love of maths, science and space. "My dad is a scientist so he was the one who always encouraged me to not be intimidated by technology," said Bethke. She went on to earn an aerospace engineering degree. And, after working in a variety of areas including satellite design and robotics, she began to focus more on how people and machines make decisions together.

"This set me up for a career as a data scientist, where I looked at geospatial data, following by Natural Language Processing," explained Bethke. "I became very interested in looking at ways that I could use these skills in a more impactful way. I had been volunteering at DataKind* in the San Francisco Bay Area and also at Data for Democracy*, which is a global community, and wanted to make a full time job out of using technology for social good."

Following a suggestion from a colleague, the Intel® AI for Social good programme was born, with Bethke putting herself forward as the ideal candidate to coordinate the initiative and take care of balancing business need with available resources. The programme works across multiple business units within Intel, using different expertise from various groups to suit each project.

As part of the project, Intel supports organisations with AI technologies and expertise to help them accelerate their work. It also carries out research and supports efforts to ensure that AI is more transparent, less biased and more accessible to all. The initiative covers a wide range of projects, covering environment, healthcare, and social impact issues.

A recent example is the TrailGuard AI* camera, developed with non-profit organisation RESOLVE* and powered by the Intel® Movidius™ Myriad™ 2 vision processing unit (VPU). TrailGuard is able to detect potential poachers entering wildlife reserves and alert park rangers in near real-time so that endangered animals can be protected more efficiently. In another project, Intel® AI technologies are being used to help preserve the Great Wall of China, by analysing aerial inspection data taken by an Intel® Falcon™ 8+ drone and taking that data with generative adversarial networks, a type of deep learning, to help restoration experts determine the best replacement bricks.

The wide range of projects taken on as part of the programme come together in different ways — sometimes Intel is approached by an external organisation, and other times the idea comes from an Intel employee. "What we're seeing is that it's very useful to partner with these organisations for a variety of reasons," said Bethke. "It lets them have more visibility into the types of AI solutions possible. And for Intel, it lets us see different problems that we weren't already seeing.

"One of the things that we've started to do is to have more frequent open meetings for the individuals that have expressed interest in this across Intel. This has helped us find volunteers across projects who will continue to advocate for these types of programmes and drive them forward."

However, the process of applying AI to complex projects is not without its challenges. "Getting the right data to train your model is always a big hurdle," said Bethke. "Making sure that we have enough data, that it's properly labelled and that it encompasses the full range of possibilities are all common challenges. And the other part is making a solution that actually works well in practice".

"Another big challenge is training the tech workers of tomorrow — teaching future generations about what's happening, what you can do with this technology and how to do it in a responsible way".

There is a clear trend towards the democratisation of AI, and the Intel® AI for Social Good initiative helps to get the technology into the hands of the individuals and communities that can benefit from it. At the end of May, Intel will attend the UN's AI for Good Global Summit* in Geneva, Switzerland where a hands-on workshop will give participants a better idea of how to leverage the capabilities of AI.

To find out more about the initiative, head over to the AI for Social Good web page. To find out more about getting involved, individuals can reach out via the Intel developers group while companies can make contact through Intel® Builders.

*Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others