Discarded Smartphones Upcycled Into Digital Forest Watchdogs


The solar-powered listening posts detect illegal loggers and poachers in remote areas.

Ross Brooks
  • 25 june 2014

Illegal logging continues to devastate vital stretches of land around the world, and much of it can only be detected days or weeks after it happens. In an effort to respond faster, the Rainforest Connection (RFCx) has come up with the idea to upcycle Android smartphones into solar-powered listening devices that can detect the sound of chainsaws in real-time. They would also be able to detect gunshots and animal distress calls, making them just as effective at catching illegal poaching.

The plan is to hide the listening posts in the forest canopy, away from the eyes of illegal loggers and poachers. Thanks to the fact each device is made from an upcycled smartphone, and the solar panels are made from discarded crystalline silicon fragments, the initiative will also help to tackle the mountains of e-waste that continue to pile up around the world.

Each device can detect a chainsaw from up to 1 kilometer away, and if enforced would prevent 15,000 metric-tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere, which is equal to taking 3,000 cars off the road. Each device’s area of protection is often home to over 1,000 different species of plants and animals.


The RFCx is aiming to raise $100,000 through its Kickstarter campaign, which would make it possible to protect at least 200-300 kilometers of forest in Africa and Brazil. Even though they have been talking to governments and NGOs as well, the startup believes that crowdfunding is the fastest way to put the devices in place and start making an immediate impact.

Additional benefits of the project include a more cost-effective solution than cameras, greater coverage, and the ability for local agencies and authorities to react in real-time. Should local bodies fail to act accordingly, the listening devices would also provide enough evidence to root out government corruption.

In exchange for a pledge, you can get postcards, t-shirts, and other feel-good rewards from RFCx. For $500, you can have part of the forest named after you, and even become its personal protector via a specialized web portal.

Rainforest Connection

[h/t] TechCrunch


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