Upcycled smartphones to help fight poaching in Africa

25 June 2014
By Tereza Pultarova
Mobile version
Share |
Rainforest Connection has developed an innovative real-time alert system for rain forests based on discarded smartphones

Rainforest Connection has developed an innovative real-time alert system for rain forests based on discarded smartphones [Credit: RFCx]

Each unit, consisting of a used Android smartphone and sensitive sensors and microphones can monitor one square mile of a jungle
The units listen to the forest and send out immediate alerts if they intercept suspicious sounds

The units listen to the forest and send out immediate alerts if they intercept suspicious sounds [Credit: RFCx]

The system is hoped to make a difference in nature protection as it provides a means of real-time monitoring of illegal logging and poaching

The system is hoped to make a difference in nature protection as it provides a means of real-time monitoring of illegal logging and poaching [Credit: RFCx]

The system can alert officials to illegal activities in the jungle faster than currently used aerial or satellite monitoring

The system can alert officials to illegal activities in the jungle faster than currently used aerial or satellite monitoring [Credit: RFCx]

An anti-poaching alert system based on recycled smartphones would be put to test for the first time in Africa this year in a joint project of the Zoological Society of London and a Californian tech start-up.

The system, developed by San Francisco-based Rainforest Connection (RFCx), is based on discarded Android smartphones and enables real-time monitoring of remote forests. It will be installed in Cameroon to help fight illegal logging and poaching. 

Each unit of the system has a smartphone in its heart and is fitted with highly sensitive microphones and sensors. Equipped with a set of advanced solar panels, the units can operate for years as the panels are powerful enough to provide sufficient energy even in the shady environment of the jungle. 

Listening to the sounds of the rain forest, each of the units can cover a square mile area, sending immediate alerts if suspicious sounds are intercepted. 

The system’s real-time monitoring capability presents a major improvement compared with existing monitoring strategies such as aerial surveillance or satellite monitoring, which usually only provide information about the situation in the rain forest with a delay of several days or even weeks.

“We think this could be a critical new tool for protecting large areas of rainforest. We’re excited to deploy it this year in collaboration with our local partners in Africa,” Chris Ransom, Programme Manager for ZSL in Africa.

Deforestation, directly responsible for more than 17 per cent of global carbon emissions, is a leading cause of climate change, according to the United Nations. It also contributes to the increasing rate of species extinction, something the ZSL and RFCx would like to avert.

“It’s clear that real-time awareness and intervention is a major missing piece in protecting the world's last remaining rainforests,” said Topher White, RFCx founder. “By using old smartphones and existing telecommunications infrastructure, we have built a system that we think could scale quickly enough to make a real impact."

Randy Hayes, Founder of Rainforest Action Network, Executive Director of Foundation Earth and a thirty-year veteran of rainforest conservation efforts, said of RFCx technology, “This is the most exciting critical new tool that I’ve seen that I think can help us get the job done.”

Each Rainforest Connection device installed is equivalent to taking 3000 cars off the road in terms of carbon mitigations due to averted logging activities.

RFCx tested the system in 2013 in Western Sumatra with promising results. 

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1606

"Where would Frankenstein and his creative mind fit into today's workplace? Should we fear technological developments or embrace them?"

E&T jobs

  • Graduate Electrical Engineers

    AECOM
    • United Kingdom and Ireland
    • Competitive

    Due to the diverse nature of our business there are many different teams each with very different responsibilities.

    • Recruiter: AECOM

    Apply for this job

  • Network Innovation Engineer / Analyst - UK Power Sector

    Premium job

    Nortech Management Ltd
    • Birmingham, West Midlands or Pershore (Worcestershire)
    • £30,000 - £35,000 (depending on experience) + benefits

    Network Innovation Engineer / Analyst to join a team of talented technology enthusiasts who design and support the low carbon networks of the future.

    • Recruiter: Nortech Management Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Engineer with Strong telecoms background

    Premium job

    Sure South Atlantic Ltd
    • Falkland Islands

    Sure South Atlantic Ltd currently has a unique engineering opportunity in their Falkland Islands office. Surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, teeming ...

    • Recruiter: Sure South Atlantic Ltd

    Apply for this job

  • Cyber, Communication, Information and Data Scientist roles

    Premium job

    Dstl
    • Porton Down, Salisbury
    • Competitive salaries

    Information is everything. Use it to serve your country and help keep us safe.

    • Recruiter: Dstl

    Apply for this job

  • Production Engineer

    Premium job

    Compact Engineering
    • Thirsk / Leeds / Banbury / Colchester / Cambridge
    • Salary will be competitive and commensurate with experience, knowledge, aptitude and capability

    A Production Engineer with some knowledge and understanding of radiant energy transfer.

    • Recruiter: Compact Engineering

    Apply for this job

  • Electronics Engineer

    Premium job

    Nikon Metrology Europe
    • Tring, Hertfordshire

    Nikon Metrology is looking for an Electronics Engineer to join our Electronics Team based in Tring (UK).

    • Recruiter: Nikon Metrology Europe

    Apply for this job

  • Engineering Manager

    BAE Systems
    • Hampshire, England, Portsmouth
    • Competitive package

    Would you like to play a vital role in managing and implementing the correct governance in order to enable BAE Systems to provide assurance and integrity of supply chain data? We currently have a vacancy for an Engineering Manager - Product Integrity

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Engineering Project Manager - Electrical & Automation

    Nestle
    • York, North Yorkshire
    • c£45,000 + Car Allowance + Bonus + Excellent Benefits

    Nestlé Product Technology Centre in York currently has an excellent opportunity for an Engineering Project Manager

    • Recruiter: Nestle

    Apply for this job

  • Consultant Engineer - Test

    BAE Systems
    • Farnborough, Hampshire, England
    • Negotiable

    Consultant Engineer - Test Would you like to be a lead within an exciting team working on one of the UK's largest defence projects? We currently have a vacancy for a Consultant Engineer - Test at our site in Ash Vale. As a Consultant Engineer - Test, you

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • ELECTRICAL PROJECT ENGINEER

    SSE
    • Reading, Berkshire
    • SALARY: £37,588 TO £55,669 + CAR (SSE8/9), DEPENDING ON SKILLS AND EXPERIENCE

    SSE are looking to recruit an Electrical Project Engineer into office in Reading

    • Recruiter: SSE

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶

Subscribe

Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T