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How Old Cell Phones Are Protecting the Rainforest

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Channel: Seeker
Categories: Environmental   |   Science   |   Technology  
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Planted high in jungle treetops, used cell phones powered by small solar panels record and upload the surrounding sounds of the landscape. In real-time, the audio is analyzed by AI software that can recognize chainsaws, logging trucks, and other signs of illegal logging nearby and notify locals of the problem. This project by Rainforest Connection is helping to put a stop to illegal logging in Indonesia and 11 other countries.
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The Rainforest Connection System, the RFCx platform really is a full, end to end type solution, it all begins with what we call a guardian, which are ostensibly more or less, phones in boxes up in the treetops.

They have solar panels, so they can last for years, they charge themselves in the daytime and they run 24 hours a day. They capture all the sound of the forest, they package it up and send it up to the cloud in real-time over the cellphone network.

Once it's in the cloud, we can run any number of artificial intelligence models on it, we can pick out chainsaws, gunshots, trucks, etc. Then in real-time, we can take those alerts and send them right back to people on the ground through software that we build called the Ranger App and through these web dashboards.

Read More:
Rainforest Connection Taps High-Tech To Thwart Illegal Logging
They can come here and catch the people in the act. That's the powerful result of this system, because normally you arrive, and the trees are gone. You don't know who did it and when they did it. But this system allows us to actually identify the threats and act in real time.

What AI Hears in the Rainforest
As it turns out, the best way to track people who are cutting down trees is sound. Using old cell phones linked to an artificial-intelligence platform in the cloud, White developed a system that can detect chainsaws in real time and send automated alerts to authorities.

Illegal logging | WWF
The global trade in roundwood, paper, furniture, and other products originating from illegally extracted timber is a multi-million dollar industry... Timber that is logged without payment of duties and taxes pushes down the market price of timber, which acts as an incentive for other loggers to follow the same practice. This further increases losses to governments and starts a vicious cycle in the market.


Across the globe, elephants are poached for their tusks, pangolins for their scales, and totoaba fish for their bladders. Tackling the fourth largest crime industry in the world isnt easy, but biologists, roboticists, detectives and even NASA scientists are getting creative in the hopes of making a difference. In this Seeker series, well investigate true stories of wildlife crime and meet the people who are working to protect the worlds most endangered and persecuted animals.

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