Old Cellphones to Fight Deforestation

Margherita Olivo
June 17th 2016

The rainforest produces an extraordinary symphony that drowns out the threatening sound of the lumberjack chainsaws. To protect it, American start-up Rainforest Connection transformed recycled cell-phones into autonomous, solar-powered listening devices. This low-cost solar tracking system is able to intercept illicit activities, mainly deforestation, and alert the rangers in real time. His founder is Californian engineer Tropher White. With the help of indigenous tribes he was able to make his ambitious project operational.

"Simply having someone show up in real time and saying 'you can't be here' and pushing the loggers on their way was an impressive enough event for them to never come back. We don't want to demonise loggers – for the most part they're just doing a job. The safer we can make it for everybody the better" says Tropher White. After collecting and reusing old cellphones, the whole electronic part of the project is assembled directly on the site and protected in a box. Scraps of solar panels are welded, rolled and laser cut. By arranging the panels radially, they can catch the light even through the vegetation. Placed in the treetops, it perceives the sounds within one kilometer. The software then sends the signal to the "Cloud API". An SMS then informs the staff, who promptly intervenes.

ecosystem explained rainforest connection

Each device avoids the emission of 15,000 tons of CO2, the equivalent of removing 3,000 cars from circulation. The experiment, successfully started on the island of Sumatra in Indonesia, continued in Cameroon, with indigenous Baka tribe. It then moved to the Amazonian Brazil with the Tembé community, a tribe already in the fight against loggers and 'mega-farmers'. Their next steps will be Ecuador and Peru. Their ambitious next plan consists in developing an app that can monitor the global situation, fighting and weakening illegal logging with the hope of ultimately defeating it.

Source and images: Rainforest Connection

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