Written for +SocialGood by ICMEC
GMCNgine: Revolutionizing the Search for Missing Children
A little boy goes missing. We watch the news, share the alerts, and stay updated in the hope that he is found safe and is able to quickly return home to his family. As time passes and we learn more about this little boy and his family, we understand their fear — without the protection of loved ones, he is vulnerable to a variety of dangers and the longer he stays missing, the more at risk he becomes.
Since the International Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (ICMEC) opened its doors nearly two decades ago, the world has witnessed major advancements in technology. Smartphones, GPS, digital cameras, and Wi-Fi have drastically changed the way society operates. Though the world looks very different today than it did 20 years ago, the ways we search for missing children have not changed.
Remember when the milk carton was our innovative way of involving the public in the search for a missing child? It wasn’t until the late 90’s when we moved our focus from the milk carton to hanging posters in public places, sharing messages, and — thanks to the Internet and social media — engaging the public through more frequent news broadcasts and targeted alerts. These newer methods have proven that while the public can play an important role in finding missing children, when this information remains static, it is only effective if the right person in the right place at the right time is paying attention.
This isn’t enough. In an age where we have access to artificial intelligence (AI), facial recognition, age progression technology, and the ability to quickly communicate with the global community, we have a responsibility to do more — and ICMEC is the lead by revolutionizing the way the world searches for missing children.
Revolutionizing the Search
At ICMEC we work every single day to build a safer world for children. We work with partners all over the world through our Global Missing Children’s Network (GMCN) to increase their capacity to search for and recover missing children. The GMCN has one goal: to unite and mobilize the global community to find missing children. To better achieve this goal, we’ve partnered with Amazon Web Services, C5, the Motorola Solutions Foundation, Facebook, Web-IQ and Biometrica to begin building the first innovative, intelligent image search and matching system specifically focused on finding missing children — the GMCNgine.
The GMCNgine is a centralized platform that uses AI, machine learning, and AWS facial recognition technology to scour the general and dark webs for photos of children to compare against images from ongoing cases of missing children from across the globe, providing law enforcement and NGOs with leads on the possible whereabouts of missing children. By integrating new technology, centralizing and comparing data sets across borders and platforms, we are taking static information and making it dynamic — putting it to work so that it is constantly searching to find each missing child. The data on these cases should never sleep, but instead be just like a parent, never stopping and relentlessly searching until their child is found.
ICMEC recently completed the PeaceTech Accelerator program at U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington D.C. to help support and design the public launch of the GMCNgine and prepare to introduce this new program to potential donors. The Accelerator program is sponsored by C5 Accelerate, Amazon Web Services, SAP NS2 and PeaceTech Lab.