Rainforest Connection is converting used Android smartphones into autonomous solar-powered listening devices that can detect sounds of environmental destruction. Donated phones are programmed to use their inbuilt microphones to continuously listen for sounds generated by chainsaws, gunshots or animals in distress. They are retrofitted with solar panels designed specifically for use in the intermittent light of a forest canopy, which power the monitoring and transmission. Placed high up on the trees of endangered rainforests, they remain hidden and out of reach of illegal loggers. When a sound is detected the device transmits an alert to a cloud server which relays an SMS message in real time to personnel on the ground. Once deployed the device is able to protect 1 square mile (300 hectares) of forest.
By choosing smart phones, Rainforest Connection is finding a new purpose for some of the 150 million phones that are discarded in the US every year. The devices offer a real-time alternative to conventional detection methods such as satellite imagery or helicopter surveying. They could also be deployed to national parks or nature and game reserves that struggle to combat illegal poaching.
Image credit: urbangarden / Flickr
Rainforest Connection plans to release web and mobile apps to allow anyone to stream the live sounds of the rainforest in Africa and the Amazon. Might every forest one day have its own self-monitoring system?