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Indonesian Rainforests Safer Thanks to Recycled Smartphones

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RainforestUsing solar-powered smartphones, Topher White, the founder of Rainforest Connection in San Francisco, devised a way to save the Indonesian forests.

More than a million hectares of forest a year disappear in Indonesia annually. Indonesia’s rainforest is the third largest in the world and serves as the habitat to many native species of plants and animals. Unfortunately, over 50% of the rainforest has been cleared since the 1960s.

This month, Rainforest Connection is launching a pilot project in the Indonesian forests that takes modified Android smartphones and uses them to record and identify the sound signatures of chainsaws… the tell-tale sign that illegal loggers are cutting down trees in the resource-stripped region.

Once the recycled handsets are donated by supporters who upgrade to the newest model, the phones are outfitted with solar panels that have been designed to soak up sunlight when it reaches the forest floor. Microphones are always on, and software listens for the sound of a chainsaw, immediately triggering an alert.

During the pilot, only rangers will be notified of the chainsaws, but ultimately White plans to design and release a free app that allows anyone to receive real-time alerts with the audio that the phones pick up and the location.

Rainforest Connection will be working with the conservation group Kalaweit to place and test 15 phone rigs in the 25,000-hectare Air Tarusan reserve in western Sumatra. White hopes each phone will have a listening radius of 0.5 kilometers making his solution a low-cost way of monitoring, and hopefully saving, the rainforests of Indonesia.

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