TED Talk of the Week: Cell Phones Can Save Rainforests

Topher White introduces the Rainforest Connection - his ingenious startup that uses old cell phones to guard the rainforests of Borneo.

Jul 14, 2015

When it comes to matters of conservation, Topher White's Rainforest Connection is the cream of the crop. His ingenius startup repurposes old cell phones to monitor and detect illegal logging in the world’s rainforests. If the contraptions hear so much as a hum of a chainsaw, the solar-powered listening mobile devices alert local authorities in real-time as to where the illegal logging is taking place.

In this gripping, green TED Talk of the Week, White tells the story of how the idea came to him, during a trip to the rainforests of Borneo in 2011. Surrounded by the sounds of the rainforest - the chirps of birds, the buzz of cicadas, the banter of gibbons - White first experienced the sound of the chainsaw of illegal loggers.

Fast forward a few months, and the engineer is putting together a contraption in his parent's garage, then installing it high up in a tree, obscured by the tree canopy. The test was successful and in less than two days, when his recycled cell phones picked up the sounds of a chainsaw, White was able to alert authorities. Now, a few years into the project, people all over the world are sending in their old cell phones, and doing their part to help the Rainforest Connection save the rainforests.

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