Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Engineering - Hacking cellphones to save the rainforest

Topher White says that he has a solution to illegal rainforest logging operations. His company, Rainforest Connection, is running a Kickstarter campaign to fund their real-time rainforest protection system. The basic idea of the project is to use parts from recycled cell phones as listening posts in the rainforest, alerting their team when a chainsaw is being used.

The Kickstarter video starts with some bold claims, including a United Nations quote that deforestation is a leading cause of climate change.  Neil Young jumps in with some naturalist wisdom, telling us that this technology enables the forest to talk to the world. Then we're told that fifty to ninety percent of the logging done in rainforests is illegal.

Rainforest Connection is billed as the world's first real time technology for protecting the rainforests. After a chainsaw is detected by the listening devices an alert is sent to rangers who can act on the information. Additionally, an app allows people from around the world to hear the rainforest. An example of the app is on the Kickstarter page.

Listening devices are installed by local activists and the campaign video assures us that the final product will be much smaller and camouflaged than the prototypes shown. There aren't many details as to the hardware or software involved in the project but several process photos are shown on the campaign page and the company's Flickr page.

As Kickstarter campaigns go, asking people to donate for a cause, even an amazing cause mixing sustainability concerns and a maker attitude, can be a hard sell. Rainforest Connection is looking for $100,000 by July 29 to fully fund their project in Indonesia. If enough money is raised two other projects in Africa and the Amazon rainforest are planned.

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