A company helping to monitor elephants in Africa joins Microsoft’s UK StartUp programme

A machine learning company whose technology has been used to monitor the amount of wildlife in Africa has joined Microsoft’s ScaleUp programme in the UK.

Valohai, which is based in Finland, has created a digital platform that lets developers and researchers train computer systems using data. The resulting apps and programs can be used to spot specific images or predict events, for example.

Data scientist Jacques Marais is using Valohai’s technology to scan Africa’s elephant population from aerial infrared and colour images taken from a plane. In doing so, detection accuracy increased from 56% to 67%, providing valuable information in tackling falling elephant numbers.

Meanwhile, it is also being used by Two Hat Security, in Canada, to speed up the training of its own algorithms to automatically detect pictures of sexual abuse on hard to reach parts of the internet – known as the Dark Web.

As well as being cost-effective, Valohai’s platform lets users easily trace issues in their machine learning model.

“What Valohai is doing for machine learning is really interesting and we see them as the best way to build this technology into enterprises,” said Warwick Hill, Managing Director of the Microsoft ScaleUp Program in Western Europe. “We look forward to scaling Valohai’s offering to customers everywhere. The decision to start collaborating with Valohai through our ScaleUp program was an easy one and something all of us at Microsoft are excited about.”

As part of the London ScaleUp deal, Valohai will gain access to Microsoft partners and customers, advice and a roadmap focused on making the most of the Azure cloud platform.

“In the past 12 months, more enterprises have started to use AI to gain a competitive advantage. By combining Microsoft’s Azure cloud and Valohai’s machine learning platform, we can help companies get their products to market quicker,” said Valohai Chief Executive Eero Laaksonen.

Valohai is the second company to enter the London ScaleUp recently, following Microshare, which helps organisations securely manage large amounts of data.

The London ScaleUp is just one of eight that Microsoft operates across the globe. So far, the network has helped 730 companies, including secure data management firm Egress, analytics business Quantexa and automated AI experts Rimilia in the UK.