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Using Old Android Phones to Thwart Illegal Logging

The inherent power and capabilities of smartphones, even outdated ones, make them great candidates for repurposing to help with conservation efforts.

Because of their ability to send and receive data, as well as use the onboard microphone and networking features, smartphones, powered by solar panels, are being deployed as a rainforest surveillance system to help slow deforestation due to illegal logging in Indonesia.

The idea, from Rainforest Connection, is that the smartphones can be installed at various locations in the rainforest, complete with a small solar panel to provide the energy, and used to continuously monitor the noises nearby. When the sounds of chainsaws or other abnormal noises are detected in threatened areas, these Android phones can send an alert to a nearby ranger, allowing for them to respond to the poaching in real-time.

“Rainforest Connection is the first platform with the potential to generate real-time data on deforestation activity in tropical rainforests. In doing so, it aims to combat illegal tree poaching by leveraging modern technological and social paradigms to reduce reliance on human resources and magnify the impact of environmentalists on-the-ground.” – Rainforest Connection

According to New Scientist, the first trial of the system will be in a huge reserve in western Sumatra, the Air Tarusan, where 15 phones will be deployed, each one of which can monitor a radius of about .5 km.

They also want to evolve the system and simplify it, “so that locals can plug a phone into a box, nail it to a tree, and begin tracking loggers right away.” Right now, the system will use new phones, but for the long term, Rainforest Connection wants to be able to use recycled phones contributed by individuals.

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