1. NICTA makes MIT Technology Review’s 2011 Top 10
NICTA’s formal code verification technology has made an annual list of the world’s ten most important emerging technologies in MIT Technology Review’s 2011 TR10. To read more go to: http://www.technologyreview.com/tr10/.
Homeland Security and Biosecurity
1. Fireants – Harnessing computer vision and mobile technology to identify fireants in the field
Fire ants are not only extremely destructive, but also tiny (2-6mm) and impossible to identify with the naked eye. Easily confused with common coastal brown ants and other native ants, their correct identification currently involves Biosecurity Queensland officers travelling to areas of suspected ant outbreaks to collect samples and bring them back to the lab to identify them under a microscope. This is time consuming and expensive.
Supported by $100,000 from the Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF), and $50,000 of in-kind support from Biosecurity Queensland, NICTA is harnessing computer vision and mobile communications technology to allow fire ants to be correctly identified in the field.
In the proposed system, a field microscope will collect images on a laptop or PDA where NICTA-developed software will perform species identification. "We are developing automated pattern recognition technology to recognise and screen the ants in situ," said Yongsheng Gao, Leader of the NICTA Biosecurity Group and Associate Professor at Griffith University’s School of Engineering. "We expect to reduce by at least half the number of samples having to come back to the lab," said Professor Gao.
Red imported fire ants can decimate ecosystems by destroying plant populations and competing with native herbivores and insects for food. They also deliver a painful and potentially dangerous bite. Under Queensland legislation, fire ants are a notifiable pest and suspected sightings must be reported to Biosecurity Queensland. Fire ants were first identified in Australia in 2001 in Brisbane, triggering a national eradication effort that has significantly reduced their numbers.
Director for the Biosecurity Queensland Control Centre (BQCC) Neil O’Brien said the NICTA project has the potential to allow field diagnosis at a very high level of detail. "Other ants may look very similar to fire ants at first glance. Fine anatomical details such as antennae and petioles can help distinguish them," said Mr O’Brien. "This work means that samples that are clearly not fire ants could immediately be excluded. We will only need to minutely examine highly suspect samples. This provides a speedier exclusionary diagnosis for regional reports and will save time in the lab."