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Using smartphones to track illegal logging in the rainforest

File photo courtesy: Jose Roberto V Moraes
File photo courtesy: Jose Roberto V Moraes

Cheryl Santa Maria, staff writer

June 11, 2013 — Rainforest Connection is using smartphone technology to combat illegal deforestation.

The mobile app provides real-time data, tipping off local authorities monitoring tropical rainforests.

The non-profit organization launched a pilot project in Indonesia using modified Android smartphones that can recognize and record the sound of chainsaws.

The phones are equipped with solar panels, so they can run continuously, and attached to trees in high risk areas.

When microphones pick up the telltale buzzing, they send an alert.

"Each device continuously monitors audible frequencies, and abnormal signals (i.e. chainsaw frequencies) are transmitted to an internet-based central database," Rainforest Connection writes.

"Alerts are generated in real-time and sent to responsible agents in the forest, enabling real-time intervention. Data generated through this platform are also made freely available through an open web service (API), allowing a global community of software developers to build real-time apps. In doing so, rainforest surveillance becomes a low-cost, crowdsourced, scalable endeavor, and we are able to tap the unlimited resources of a growing worldwide population of tech-savvy eco-enthusiasts."

According to advocacy group Rainforest Alliance, more than half of the world's plant and animal species live in the rainforest.

It's estimated that 60,000 square kilometres of rainforest -- an area of land larger than Nova Scotia -- are disappearing each year, due to a combination of legal and illegal logging.

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