Rainforest Connection

Forests & Biodiversity

Re-using old cellphones as monitoring devices to stop illegal logging

Project Facts

Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Peru, Philippines, South Africa

Applied Financing Solutions
Grants, Private Donations

Project Dates
Start: 2014
In operation since/from: 2015

The Story

The Californian start-up Rainforest Connection (RFCx) is a non-profit company that has developed an innovative real-time detection and alert system for logging and environmental conservation in the rainforest. They use old cellphones, equip them with purpose-built solar chargers and hide them up in the jungle canopies to monitor and pinpoint deforestation and poaching activities.

The phones – each monitoring a 3 km radius – are placed in vulnerable areas of forests, close to roads and tracks, to form a network of “Forest Guardians”. Operating 24 hours a day, live audio streams from the devices are uploaded and artificial intelligence models filter the sounds of unusual activities, such as the use of chainsaws, logging trucks and vehicles, from the natural soundscape of the woods. If suspicious activities are detected, the system automatically provides partners on the ground with an instant warning about its exact location and type. Rainforest Connection forms partnerships with local tribes, NGOs and government agencies, so they can show up and stop delinquents in real time – ideally on their way in, before the damage has been done.

Success Factor | Hero Moment

Thanks to partnerships with large technology companies and the introduction of machine learning, the system has become capable of detecting more subtle things, such as gunshots, human voices, or specific birds. Today, the technology is thus also being used to monitor and archive the sounds of rare or important species, providing scientists with a new means to study the health of wildlife populations in a given area. The system has already been extensively tested with local communities in Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Philippines, Peru, South Africa, amongst others – and dozens of new projects are in the pipeline.

Rainforest Connection, United States

Contact Mail


Innovation, Non-profit, Conservation