Rainforest Connection is using old smartphones to stop illegal logging

Rainforests are full of exotic animals and plants. But one group is using technology to keep a check on particularly dangerous creatures — humans. San Francisco startup Rainforest Connection is recycling old smartphones into devices that detect deforestation and alert authorities to illegal logging activity or poaching. Hidden in trees, the solar-powered devices are programmed to pick up destructive sounds, such as chainsaws or alarmed animals, according to the company’s Kickstarter page. An alert is then sent via text message to local authorities, who can then respond immediately. Also, anyone who downloads the Rainforest Connection app can listen live to the sounds of the Sumatra rainforest.

Can an array of tiny gadgets stop the wanton and massive destruction of tropical rainforests? Yes, says engineer Topher White. To that end, he founded Rainforest Connection, a non-profit, open-source startup in February 2013. By turning discarded smartphones into 24/7 automated electronic detectives (using solar power that works even in shade), humanity can listen for the distinctive vrinn vrinn ruggaruggggaaa sounds of treecutting chainsaws. Contributed by the public via the company’s website, GSM-based Android smartphones are repurposed with open source software written by White. A patent-pending solar array powers the system. A physicist, software engineer, and inventor, White says in an interview with VentureBeat that a covert, tree-placed smartphone can monitor about a square kilometer of forest. When the distinctive and far-reaching audio generated by a chainsaw reaches the phone, software dials an enforcement number. Humans receiving the phone’s data stream can be on-scene quickly to enforce local and regional bans. White’s partner, environmental policy maker Dave Grenell, said “Perpetrators often work from the periphery of a forest inwards. If you protect the perimeter, where there is easy access, you are more likely to protect the interior, and its a better strategic approach because it’s closer to civilization.” That’s good for the RFCx solution.

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Written by Lorie Wimble

Lorie is the "Liberal Voice" of Conservative Haven, a political blog, and has 2 astounding children. Find her on Twitter.

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