Rainforest Connection builds acoustic monitoring systems to protect rainforests from illegal deforestation, to halt animal poaching and to enable bio-acoustic monitoring. Its systems run on second-hand mobile phones transformed into solar-powered listening devices that enable real time alerts to be sent via SMS to local authorities if suspicious sounds are detected.
At the core of each device is an Android smartphone with an operating system that has been modified and geared toward resource management, internal analytics and power efficiency. The device has highly sensitive external microphones that can capture ambient sounds, like the sound of chainsaws, enabling immediate intervention from local authorities. The device can pinpoint the exact location the deforestation is taking place.
A specialized configuration of solar panels (designed to capitalize on the thin and short lived bands of sunlight that penetrate tree canopies) keep the devices powered and somewhat protected from the elements. Highly sensitive external microphones capture all ambient sound within 1km of the device (range is somewhat dependent on topography and forest type). Though the devices are mounted on tree trunks (and the microphones are thereby not entirely omnidirectional), the solar panel configuration is designed to reflect sounds originating from behind the tree toward the microphone, thereby giving each device a nearly omnidirectional range. The devices are intended to be autonomous in operation, capable of operating indefinitely in the field, with almost no physical maintenance. Once installed in a tree, they may be considered abandoned until planned removal at the end of their service life (the length of which cannot yet be confirmed, but is expected to be 12 years).