Illegal logging? There’s an app for that.

Topher White, a physicist, engineer, and rainforest conservationist, developed an app to help save the rainforests after a discovery made while volunteering in Borneo for a gibbon protection program. He learned that almost half of the local conservationist’s budget was used to fight off illegal loggers. White was determined to find a solution.

The current technology used against deforestation is satellite which can only show where trees have been cut. White’s focus is on locating and approaching illegal loggers before trees are cut and stakes are high. His solution is to detect vehicles, trucks, and chainsaws using audio recorded from cell phones planted high in rainforest canopies. Rainforest rangers will then be notified of the location on their own cell phones in order to find and track down loggers before illegal logging proceeds.

The device White created, called guardian phones, uses five to six year old recycled android cell phones powered by the sun. Guardian phones operate 24 hours a day to record audio of the rainforest. The audio is analyzed real-time for chainsaws, logging trucks, vehicles, gunshots, and specific animal species.

This technology is also being offered as a platform for rainforest ecologists to use for research. Anyone will have the ability to use the app to listen to real-time sounds of the rainforests. The app will also send alerts on what is happening in nearby areas.

Learn more about the app here:

Whatch Topher White discusses his ideas on TED: