Topher White has a system to save forests using old smartphones

Among the sounds of the jungle, we hear birdsong, the hum of cicadas, the sound of gibbons. But in the background there is almost always the sound of chainsaws, the favorite tool of illegal loggers. Engineer Topher White devised a simple and scalable way to stop this brutal deforestation, Connection to the rainforest use your old mobile phone to remotely monitor and protect the forest, enabling real-time interventions.

The story begins in the summer of 2011, Engineer Topher White first visited the forests of Borneo, what impressed him the most were his strange sounds of the forest.

He visited a gibbon reserve. There he spent most of his time rehabilitating the gibbons, and he also invested heavily in protecting the area from illegal logging. If we take out the sound of the jungle and remove the sound of the gibbons and bugs and the like, in the background you can hear the sound of a chainsaw. There were 3 full time guards to control this shrine whose job was to protect the area from illegal logging and one day we went for a walk in the forest as tourists, and 5 minutes later we met someone who had just cut down a tree. , 5 minutes, a few meters from the headquarters of the guards. But they didn’t hear the chainsaws, because, you see, the forest is very, very loud.

Forest saving system using old smartphones

So how do we stop illegal logging? As an engineer it was very tempting to come up with an absurd high-tech solution, but in the jungle it must be simple, it must be doable.

Considering that there was cell phone service out there in the middle of nowhere. There is no electricity but it is not really a problem of incorporating solar panels into the system. He is thinking about the real possibility of using forest sounds, identifying chainsaw sounds with a program and sending an alarm. But he needed a device to put it in the trees. With this device to record the sounds of the forest, connected to the mobile network, and sending an alarm to the inhabitants of the area, perhaps he would find a solution to the problem.

A system to save forests using old smartphones

It looks like high tech. The moment it hears the sound of a chainsaw in the forest, the device detects it and sends an alarm via the GSM network to a guard in the field who can reach out to prevent real-time logging. It is no longer a matter of looking for felled trees, or seeing a satellite tree in a felled area, but it is a real-time intervention.

So he started working in his parents’ garage. He designed a device that integrates a disused smartphone, solar panels and a system so that it is well camouflaged high in the trees. It can pick up saw sounds up to one kilometer and cover about 3 square kilometers.

A system to save forests

To test them, he returned to Indonesia, to another gibbon reserve threatened day after day by illegal logging. On the second day of installation, he picked up sounds of illegal logging with chainsaws. They had a real-time alert. You have received an email on your phone. In fact, they had just climbed up and down the tree. So they decided to stop the loggers.

Word spread across the internet and amazing things started to happen. People all over the world have started writing to them and calling them. There were people from Asia, Africa, South America, who could also use it. Then something amazing happened, people started sending them their old phones. So now they have a system with people there, ready to upgrade and use the existing connection. They use old phones sent to them by people all over the world who want their phones to have a second use, so to speak.


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