Sunday, July 13, 2014

Rainforest Connection

Photo credit: Rainforest Connection

Not exactly related to my project, but I discovered this very cool initiative today called Rainforest Connection which aims to make a fast notification network for deforestation. They have developed a device out of old Android smart phones and solar cells, attached to tress high up in the canopy which records the surrounding rainforest in a 300 hectare (or appx. 1.16 square miles) circular area. A live feed of these recordings are then sent over cellular network (which is apparently strong enough in even the most remote locations) analyzed for the telltale chainsaw sound patterns, which can then be sent to a responsible law enforcement agent with the exact location (within those 300 hectares) of the suspected illegal logging activity, all within 5 minutes of the first chainsaw sound. This is a brilliant solution to the difficult problem of patrolling and enforcing protected areas, since the alternatives of waiting weeks for satellite images (AFTER deforestation has already occurred) or having to employ a massive patrol force (which is costly and inefficient, especially for developing tropical countries where deforestation is most of a problem. A panopticon, of sorts - instead of trying to chase illegal loggers around the forest, make the forest the eye. Other than the problem of the cellular network, a similar model could be utilized in marine protected areas (notoriously difficult to patrol) to check for the sounds of boat engines. You could even develop a roster of approved vessels in an area, and so an alarm would not be set off if an approved boat follows an approved course through the protected area - ideal for research vessels, ecotourist cruises, and for limited amounts of fishermen through a lottery system. Perhaps satellite receivers would be better than cellphone service for a marine application.

A great project, if you can support their kickstarter to set up a large scale experimental run in Indonesia.

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