Thursday, January 7, 2016

track a cell phone

In the summer of 2016, Topher White first visited the rainforest of the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia. At that time there was not more than a tourist, as he says, visiting a protected area for Gibbons, a species of primate. "Above all, I was impressed the overpowering sounds of the forest", he recalls. "There was a constant cacophony of noise. That most stood out, however, was one that I couldn't identify at that time. A sound, whose presence nobody had seen it out of the place". It was a chain saw.

Illegal loggers cut down trees, without permission from the authorities, in the middle of the reserve of the Gibbons, only two kilometers away from the place where he was White. And no one listened to him. This was the trigger of an innovative idea: why not use old mobile phones to monitor the forest? "Mobile phones are excellent, they are full of sensors," says White. "And every year hundreds of millions are thrown away." Among the many sensors that are integrated into a mobile phone, there are sophisticated microphones and GPS tracking systems.

phone tracker

Phones could easily be mounted at the top of the trees. From there they would recognize and identify the noise of chainsaw like a musical application, such as for example Shazam, which recognizes the song that is playing. Then the phone could activate the alarm to the authorities and as it is equipped with GPS, Ranger would know exactly where to look for the illegal loggers.
But a moment: How can a mobile phone to alert anyone in the middle of the jungle? "The big surprise was to discover that we had coverage in the middle of the forest," says White. And that, "we are talking about areas that are hundreds of kilometers from the nearest road", he clarifies.

As so many other founders of emerging companies, or startup, White locked himself in the garage of her parents and began to tinker. He developed software and built built water resistant protective covers to protect the small computer weather adversities. But he soon discovered that the real challenge was to cater to mobile phones with electricity in the forest.

The immediate option was to use solar panels, but through the dense undergrowth of the forest penetrates very little daylight. In this way, White is came the idea of removing all unnecessary components that consume energy of the phone, including displays and speakers. In addition, developed a design with solar cells arranged around the mobile phone like petals of flowers.

cell-phone tracker
Currently, White has transformed their effort in an NGO, Rainforest Connection, and has launched a successful campaign on Kickstarter, which to date has raised more than 150,000 dollars (140,000 euros). In addition, it receives tons of old gift of smart mobile phones because people like to donate their old devices for a good cause.



The first test of the system, on the Indonesian island of Sumatra, was satisfactory. In it, they surprised a group of illegal loggers in the Act, that cooperated without resistance and peacefully left the scene without returning back to the same.

With much support from environmentalists and volunteer groups, the Organization Rainforest Connection has since installed a system in Cameroon and is currently working on the implementation of another in the Brazilian Amazon. All this only it has been possible because of the fascination which caused him to White those sounds of the jungle in his first trip to Borneo.