Pittsburgh Tech Company Wins $ 500,000 in Artificial Intelligence Competition


Pittsburgh-based tech company Marinus Analytics won third place in the IBM Watson AI XPRIZE competition on Wednesday, beating nearly 800 competitors globally. Marinus uses artificial intelligence to sift through big data and help law enforcement stop human trafficking and recover victims.

“We had detectives who were like, ‘When we’re looking for a missing child, the best we can do is print a photo of their face, paste it on our computer screen, manually scroll through the online ads. and hope we find them, ”Marinus President Emily Kennedy said in a video of the competition.

The company’s main product is Traffic Jam, a tool that uses facial recognition and other analytics to help law enforcement model and make connections between numerous traffic websites with thousands of data points. Marinus estimates that their software helped support 6,800 victims of trafficking over a two-year period. But one of its most important benefits is the time it has saved its users. In 2020 alone, the company estimates that it saved investigators more than 70,000 hours.

“This is a very important service for frontline investigators and members of public safety,” said Cara Jones, CEO of Marinus. “There is too much data filtering through the airwaves of the Internet and the police need to access this information.”

The IBM Watson AI XPRIZE is a global competition launched in 2016 with the aim of stimulating innovation in artificial intelligence to solve major societal problems, by awarding $ 5 million in prizes.

There were nearly 800 contest entrants, and Marinus, a woman-owned business that grew out of Kennedy’s honors thesis at Carnegie Mellon University, was the only U.S. finalist. An Israeli software company called ZzappMalaria won the grand prize of $ 3 million for its technology targeting malaria outbreaks and Montreal-based Aifred Health took the second prize of $ 1 million for its work using AI to improve the treatment of depression.

Marinus plans to use the $ 500,000 in prizes to continue working against criminal trafficking networks, as well as to develop new tools to support child protection service workers.

“We are addressing a criminal threat that continues to evolve and evade as public safety advances its methods,” Jones said.


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