Now, Your Discarded Smartphones Can Help Save Forests, Prevent Illegal Poaching

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Yes, you’ve heard it right. Rainforest Connection, a California-based no-profit company, has come up with a unique way of saving forests and preventing illegal poaching. The company has transformed recycled smartphones into autonomous, solar-powered listening devices that can monitor and pinpoint chainsaw and deforestation activities at great distance.

The system uses a handful of old or donated smartphones which they have hide in a forest. These handsets eventually generate a text message to alert reserve managers about poachers and illegal loggers. According to a report by a popular magazine Scientific American, the smartphones, encased in waterproof housings and attached to a cluster of solar cells, look like large, black flowers.

The smartphones are mounted high in the canopy and it is difficult to spot them. The devices periodically record snippets of audio, which they transmit over the cheap local cellular network to a central server. If the software detects the sound of chain saws, it triangulates the position of the logging and sends the information to workers at the preserve.

Topher White, who designed the system and founded the company, said, the smartphones were installed into the forest canopy of the Kalaweit Supayang Nature Conservation Reserve for gibbons in Indonesia, where the system quickly brought logging to a halt.

Within 24 hours of activating four strategically placed bugs in the reserve, the smartphones picked up illegal loggers and dispatched authorities, said White. The system was effective enough to stop loggers from entering the 135 hectare region covered by the technology and a year on, they have not returned, he said.

The company is now preparing to install dozens of such listening devices in equatorial Africa to protect endangered forest elephants as well as their habitats.
(Image: Rainforest Connection)
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