Old Smartphones Get New Life as Rainforest Guardians

By: | August 11th, 2014

Image courtesy Rainforest Connection

According to a report from the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) and International police organization Interpol, illegal loggers are responsible for up to 90% of rainforest logging. This illegal logging can still impact us even if we do not live near a rainforest. It triggers climate changes that affect all of us.

The main problem faced in stopping illegal logging in rainforests is how to both monitor the rainforest and act quickly when illegal activity is spotted. Current detection systems rely on satellites that only help if the affected area is big enough to be seen from space. And it could take weeks before the destruction is even detected.

What’s the answer? A modern day gadget you already have in your pocket.

One creative solution to stop the illegal logging has old smartphones acting as forest guardians. The Rainforest Connection (RFCx) project aims to deploy enough devices to cover up to 300 square kilometers of rainforest in Brazil and Africa in two pilot programs.

The solar powered recycled smartphones are being used to monitor up to three square kilometers of rainforest. The system detects any deforestation activity and provides real time information.

How it works

The RFCx devices are placed high in the tree canopy where they are hidden. Each device can detect the sounds of any logging activity up to one km around it. On detecting such sounds, the phone transmits an alert to the RFCx server which then sends out an SMS message to first responders in the area to halt the illegal activity.


Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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