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Wild Me joins AI for Earth | Stories

A new investment from Microsoft’s AI for Earth program will accelerate Wild Me, an organization that identifies and tracks individual animals using machine learning and computer vision

REDMOND, Wash. — June 14, 2018 — On Thursday, Microsoft Corp. announced that Wild Me, a Portland-based nonprofit organization that focuses on combatting extinction with citizen science and artificial intelligence, will become a new featured project in its AI for Earth program. This deeper level of investment and engagement will enable Wild Me, and its wide range of users and supporters, to more effectively and efficiently use software and AI to combat extinction.

“The world is facing a major biodiversity crisis, and Wild Me’s work in harnessing computer vision and machine learning to monitor and track individual animals is truly groundbreaking,” said Bonnie Lei, AI for Earth project manager at Microsoft. “Microsoft hopes to accelerate Wild Me’s conservation impact by enabling wider usage of its open source algorithms through making them available on Microsoft Azure as APIs, and boosting the speed and accuracy of its entire Wildbook platform by migrating it over to Azure.”

Wildbook is an open source, cloud-based software platform — created by Wild Me in collaboration with faculty and students at Princeton University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of Illinois-Chicago — that brings together AI, computer vision, scientific research and citizen science to help protect endangered species. Using images uploaded from conservationists, researchers and citizen scientists, the software helps identify and track animal populations, monitor their migrations and interactions, and evaluate threats to inform and improve conservation efforts.

“Wildbook democratizes science and conservation,” said Tanya Berger-Wolf, director at Wild Me and professor at University of Illinois-Chicago. “The partnership with Microsoft will allow us to enable science and conservation at planetary scale and high resolution over time, space and individual animals.”

Wild Me will be the fifth AI for Earth featured project, joining land cover mapping, Project Premonition, FarmBeats and iNaturalist. With 111 grantees in 27 countries, AI for Earth puts Microsoft’s cloud and AI tools in the hands of those working to solve global environmental challenges. Through grants that provide access to cloud and AI tools, opportunities for education and training on AI, and investments in innovative, scalable solutions, AI for Earth works to advance sustainability across the globe.

Microsoft (Nasdaq “MSFT” @microsoft) enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. Its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

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Microsoft Media Relations, WE Communications for Microsoft, (425) 638-7777,


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Change Healthcare blockchain system draws praise

The Change Healthcare blockchain system from the McKesson Corp. offshoot is a notable investment by a major health IT vendor that has significant potential for value-based care, analysts said.

Change, which spun off from McKesson in 2016 — taking most of McKesson’s health IT assets with it — appears to be applying next-generation technology to get ready for a post-EHR future, said Kate McCarthy, senior analyst for health IT at Forrester Research.

“I see them as a very thoughtful organization trying to figure out how to best position themselves for success in the future of health tech, which is going to look very different than it does today,” McCarthy said. “So, this investment in blockchain, I think, is a strategic one to help differentiate them.”

“But it also aligns with what they’re hoping to become in healthcare, which is what does the new end-to-end look like?” she said. “Moving away from the existing systems of record that don’t play with each other, how do we enable sharing of information across different data sources, vendors and ecosystems?”

In a release accompanying the healthcare blockchain launch at the Distributed: Health 2017 conference in Nashville, Tenn., Change claimed the application is “the first blockchain solution for enterprise-scale use in healthcare.”

How blockchain works

Other companies, including IBM and Accenture, have been marketing blockchain applications for finance, food supply chain and other industries, and several dozen healthcare blockchain startups are active in various sectors of healthcare.

Change said the technology is focused on helping payers and providers improve revenue-cycle efficiency and analytics and cut costs, as well as creating unspecified, “innovative new services.”

While blockchain technology is still viewed as being in an early stage of development, some health IT experts have envisioned payer issues, such as more efficient claims processing, as a key use case as the healthcare system transitions to value-based care.

One of Change’s main lines of business is processing what it said are 12 billion healthcare claims involving $2 trillion in claims a year using its Intelligent Healthcare Network. The company said the network would support blockchain transactions by the end of 2017.

The healthcare blockchain application is built on Hyperledger Fabric 1.0, an open source blockchain framework that is among the projects hosted by the Linux Foundation.

Change, as well as other technology and finance companies — such as IBM, Intel, Cisco, SAP, Hitachi, American Express and JPMorgan — is represented on the Hyperledger governing board.

This investment in blockchain, I think, is a strategic one to help differentiate them.
Kate McCarthysenior analyst for health IT at Forrester Research

“We are excited to work alongside our customers and partners to make blockchain real in healthcare,” Neil de Crescenzo, CEO of Change, said in the release. “As today’s healthcare system becomes more value-based, it’s essential that we aggressively and pervasively introduce new technologies into healthcare at scale.

“We are initially introducing blockchain technology to create a distributed ledger that makes claims processing and secure payment transactions work more efficiently and cost-effectively for all healthcare stakeholders,” de Crescenzo said.

Meanwhile, another analyst, Kamaljit Behera of consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, also expressed praise for the Change Healthcare blockchain plan, saying it goes beyond hype, and Change’s extensive background in health IT and services bodes well for its ability to develop the technology.

As a technology, blockchain’s ability to create secure, immutable ledgers of transactions suits the transaction-intensive world of healthcare insurance payments, Behera said.

“Blockchain is definitely a next move any company would look at, especially for the practical work of automating workflow,” Behera said. “Especially moving from volume to value-based reimbursement, those kind of contracts, and looking at the role of the payer, blockchain provides the ideal solution to mitigate some of the inefficiencies in claims processing.”