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Technology to stop illegal logging and poaching on-the-spot. It's our answer to climate change & mass extinctions.
Technology to stop illegal logging and poaching on-the-spot. It's our answer to climate change & mass extinctions.
Technology to stop illegal logging and poaching on-the-spot. It's our answer to climate change & mass extinctions.
2,844 backers pledged $167,299 to help bring this project to life.

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Rainforest Connection - Phones Turned to Forest Guardians

$167,299

2,844

Thanks to our amazing backers! 

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What is Rainforest Connection?

Rainforest Connection transforms recycled smartphones into autonomous, solar-powered listening devices that can pinpoint signs of destructive activity at great distance.

It's the world's first scalable, real-time logging detection system, pinpointing deforestation activity as it occurs.

Taking it one step further:
Rainforest Connection Mobile App

With the Rainforest Connection mobile app, any interested person from around the world can listen-in on the rainforest anytime, from anywhere.

In late 2014, we will release web & mobile apps to let our backers stream the LIVE sounds of the rainforest in Africa and the Amazon. Just click Play above to hear the sounds of the rainforest as captured by the RFCx system in Sumatra.

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Rainforest Connection in the news...

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Why do we need Rainforest Connection?

Current detection systems rely on satellites which show rainforest destruction days or weeks too late. Our system provides  the world's first real-time logging detection system. We can pinpoint deforestation activity the moment it begins, while simultaneously streaming the data openly and immediately to anyone.

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Why should you support this Kickstarter campaign?

Each RFCx device can protect an area of forest so large that it is home to over 1000 different species of plants and animals. We also focus on creating partnerships that empower indigenous populations working to protect their homelands from encroachment, logging and poaching.

Each RFCx device protects enough trees from logging to prevent 15 000 metric-tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere. This is equivalent to taking 3 000 cars off the road. 

What will we do with the Kickstarter money?

Near-Term:  Your donation will allow us to purchase the hardware and complete up to two separate pilot programs. 

One of our 2014 deployments will be in Equatorial Africa - to protect illegal logging and poaching in partnership with  Zoological Society of London (ZSL). 

“We think this could be a critical new tool for protecting large areas of rainforest." - Chris Ransom, Zoological Society of London 

Long-Term: If we exceed our goals, we can do much more. We can begin to cover large areas in Latin America and Asia, upgrade the software analytics, and create real-time data flows that allow open source developers to take the app to the next level. 

Hear the sounds on our mobile app: If we exceed our Kickstarter goal, we can also deploy the mobile consumer application for everyone to listen in on the sounds of the rainforest and illegal logging. 

Listen here to the real sounds captured by an RFCx device in the field (Location: Western Sumatra, Indonesia): 

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How does Rainforest Connection work?

We install RFCx devices high in the tree canopy where they are hidden. Each device continuously captures all ambient sound, and can detect the sounds of destructive activities—such as logging/chainsaws—up to 1 kilometer in the distance. Upon picking up the sound of a chainsaw the device transmits an alert to our cloud server which in turn sends an SMS message to first responders. 

This is what the sound signatures of chainsaws look like when analyzed by our system.

The devices have been stress tested and built to last indefinitely, using a patent-pending solar-panel configuration that powers the devices—even under the tree canopy.

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The Team:

Topher White: Physicist, software engineer, founder and inventor of RFCx. Topher has been building systems large and small for startups as well as international science projects—most recently four years working on nuclear fusion at ITER, in France.

Dave Grenell: 10 years of environmental policy working to create national models. Dave also negotiated one of the first placements of a gunshot detection system in California, an idea that uses similar principles to Rainforest Connection.

Nishant Bagadia: 10 years of building high-impact start-ups that align business models with impactful product/service solutions. Nishant's experience as an ex-Deloitte Consultant helps him focus on taking RFCx to scale. 

Advisory Board:

Teddy Ryerson: a former senior executive at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Teddy is an environmental lawyer and public policy expert with national leadership experience. She has co-authored ground-breaking environmental legislation and prosecuted major violations of environmental laws. Most recently, she served nearly five years as the senior policy advisor to the EPA chief executive in the Pacific Southwest for four states, the Pacific Islands and 148 Tribal Nations. Teddy became an environmental lawyer in part due to her studies of massive global extinctions while she was a Ph.D. candidate at UC Berkeley.

Neil Calder: a lifelong master of science and innovation communication, Neil is current Vice President for Communication & Public Relations for OIST, in Japan. He has previously served as Director of Communications for several of the world's largest international science laboratories, including CERN (France/Switzerland), SLAC (California) and ITER (France).

Nick Ellis: Founder of Job Rooster, a mobile app for job search that has been used by millions of Americans. Nick is an expert in mobile technology applications. He concentrated in technology and design interaction at Stanford and London School of Economics, with a focus on developing nations.

Henry Oh: Henry has extensive experience with open source development and technology. He studied the interplay between technological evolution and social change at UCLA, the London School of Economics and Stanford Law School. A serial social entrepreneur, Henry is passionate about using technology to promote social good. He has volunteered to localize Creative Commons licenses in non-US jurisdictions.

Partners:

Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe: Legal Services. Big thanks for the amazing pro bono work from Heather Stewart, Eliza Golden, Rene Kathawala, Sophie Yu, Michelle Jarell, Johanna Jacob and Ben Tabler.

Zoological Society of London: Chris Ransom and Lauren Redmore

Equipe de Conservação da Amazônia (ECAM): Vasco M. van Roosmalen

Earth Train: Nathan Gray, Colin Wiel & Steve Wiel (Mamoni Preserve)

Fluid PR: Matt McAllister, a full-service communications firm specializing in startups and technology clients

Rylander Design: Michael Rylander

Gravity Tank: Innovation design specialists, David O'Donnell

Sunny Cha, Social Media Communications Advisor

Tobin O'Donnell, Brand and Communications Specialist

Kachina Gosselin, Open Source Engineering and Design Collaboration / Media Outreach

Anthony David Adams, Crowdfunding Expert, Founder of AcademyOfCrowdfunding.com

Risks and challenges

Can illegal loggers find the devices in the trees?

When installed in the field, the devices are well camouflaged and nearly invisible in the tree canopy. The photos of the device that are shown on this Kickstarter page (low-mounted on trees) are solely for display purposes, because you can't show a "hidden device." If a device is properly placed high in the canopy, it’s nearly impossible to see—made even more undetectable by the 2-3 square kilometer range (many many thousands of trees) which are covered by a single device. Different rainforests have different attributes, but in Indonesia we could barely find the devices after we put them up ourselves. Beyond that, the devices do have a theft-detection routine. In any instance where a device is moved (after being installed), local authorities receive an alert. We therefore believe that the favorable circumstances (well-hidden, and large range) combined with our proactive design efforts (anti-theft routine) will continue to prevent anyone from tampering with the devices.

Do rainforests have cellular GSM coverage?

Perhaps surprisingly, our experience so far has shown that many of them do, particularly in many areas that are most threatened by human populations and logging. Growing global GSM coverage is outpacing most people's expectations. Our devices are programmed to work on very minimal GSM coverage, below the amount that a person needs to make a fully functional cell phone call. If GSM coverage is light or intermittent, our devices store data and then transfer data as soon as any connection is detected. In addition, many of the rainforest areas, where loggers would enter through access roads, have greater coverage for RFCx to post devices around the perimeter. In the future, we are exploring partnerships with remote controlled devices that can transmit GSM signals in areas with poor connection. The good news is that our existing near term pilots in Indonesia, Africa, Brazil and Central America all have enough coverage to allow functional monitoring.

We already know where the illegal logging takes place, so why waste time trying to survey these areas?

That's good news. In such a case, devices installed in that area would still be able to let you know in real-time when it's taking place. The sensors allow real-time intervention and response, by alerting the authorities. They also create a forensic record of evidence of extraction and the patterns of illegal activity which can be used in many ways, including in a court of law, should the authorities never respond. Knowing where destruction is happening is an asset - knowing where AND when is far better. It empowers people to call first responders (rangers/police) in the same way we might call 911. If the first responders don't respond, it allows us to show a record of their failure to respond by showing that they were alerted to illegal logging but did not show up or did not stop it.

Do existing technologies work better than RFCx?

Existing rainforest protection tools predominantly rely on aerial surveys or satellite surveillance, and aren’t fully getting the job done, as these tools usually detect logging days or even weeks after the illegal deforestation has occurred. This often results in a reactive, versus a proactive, encounter.

Is RFCx expensive?

We believe the RFCx approach is likely to offer a pathway to the least expensive way to protect large areas of rainforest, when taken to scale. Currently, we make the devices by hand and this is time consuming. When we have larger orders for installation of devices, when we can do production runs at lower costs.

In comparison, the costs for camera traps and satellite detection are baked into much larger programs. These costs are high but difficult to extrapolate. A good camera trap might run $500-$800, but it only covers a line-of-sight area of up to a few hundred square feet. One RFCx device can cover about 3 square kilometers (1 square mile) for the same price or less.

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    THANK YOU - Thank you so much for helping to get this technology out into the forest where it belongs. Your name will be written on our website (rfcx.org) in recognition of your contribution, and, like all backers, you'll have exclusive access to the Rainforest Connection project diary—from lab-to-jungle.

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    Pledge $16 or more About $16

    HIGH-RES PHOTO STREAM - We're lucky enough to work with world-class photographers in some of the most exotic and beautiful places on earth. In addition to website recognition, for $16 or more you'll get regular email updates with beautiful, high-res, openly-licensed photos from the field... and sometimes from our fabrication "lab" (it's a garage).
    These updates will continue through the completion of our next two pilots in Africa and the Amazon in early 2015. This is included in all higher pledge levels as well.

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    Pledge $24 or more About $24

    POSTCARD FROM AFRICA - In addition to recognition on our site, we will send you a hand-written thank you postcard from the forest in Cameroon.

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    Pledge $40 or more About $40

    CARBON OFFSET CERTIFICATE - ONE CAR - $40 given to RFCx goes a long way toward avoiding carbon emissions from deforestation. For $40, we're able to credibly issue you a certificate indicating that you have offset the emissions of one car for an entire year. Certificates are personalized, beautiful, and printed on post consumer recycled content.
    NOTE: There are only a limited number of these we can issue for each pilot (affected by bigger offset packs below as well) based on the area.

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    Pledge $59 or more About $59

    HEAR THE LIVE SOUNDS OF THE RAINFOREST - RFCx MOBILE APP - For the first time, people around the world will be able to stream LIVE audio from the rainforest! And you will be amongst the first to get access (after beta period). Support this effort and get early access to the mobile app on iOS & Android in early 2015!

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    Pledge $60 or more About $60

    RFCx HACKER HANDBOOK (EARLY BIRD) Detailed step-by-step instruction manual on how to turn your old smartphone into a functional RFCx device + exclusive early access to our cloud API for generating data and building your own third-party app!

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    Pledge $65 or more About $65

    RFCx T-SHIRT / TOTE BAG - Show off your evident support for saving the rainforest in the coolest way yet tried. Get your own RFCx T-Shirt or Tote Bag. You can choose from three possible designs! Sizes S, M, L, XL. (Black or White) Plus: All the above.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    HEAR THE LIVE SOUNDS OF THE RAINFOREST - RFCx MOBILE APP - For the first time, people around the world will be able to stream live audio from the rainforest. Support this effort and get exclusive early access to the the app on iOS & Android later this year.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    PERSONAL THANK YOU VIDEO - NOW -
    In a short (up to 1 minute) video, Topher + team will thank you personally for your contribution and will send you the video shortly thereafter. You can post on social media or wherever you'd like. If you email us immediately after your contribution, you can make a request for us to include special content (your favorite feature, a shout out to your environmental group, etc.). Send email to contact@rfcx.org

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    Pledge $120 or more About $120

    COMBO PACK - RFCx T-SHIRT *AND* TOTE BAG - Want a T-Shirt AND a Tote Bag? NO problem!

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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    COMBO PACK - T-SHIRT + TOTE BAG + OFFSET CERT + HACKER-HANDBOOK + LIVE SOUNDS on mobile & web - For the person that wants it all, you deserve it all! You could literally be wearing your T-shirt while carrying your hacker-handbook in your tote bag and listening to the live sounds of the rainforest... all at the same time! (Your offset certificate would be mounted on the wall at home).

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    Pledge $250 or more About $250

    ADOPT & PROTECT THE FOREST - HALF PACK - Become the protector of ONE HALF SQUARE KILOMETER (50 hectares) of rainforest. The area will be named after you (or another name of your choosing) in our apps and data feeds. You'll receive a digital map of your adopted area and a web portal to monitor the forest in real-time.

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    Pledge $460 or more About $460

    MAKER'S KIT — EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO BUILD YOUR OWN RFCx DEVICE — You'll receive a packaged kit with the necessary hardware to turn your Android smartphone into a fully-functional RFCx device. Includes device enclosure, internal/external cabling, highly-sensitive microphone, internal battery pack, solar-power controller circuity, and fully assembled external solar panels. Includes the Hacker's Handbook: a full instruction manual on building the hardware, connecting an Android phone, installing the necessary software, and connecting the device to our open web API. Also includes some example software projects for building third-party applications using our web API. Join the team and help us improve this technology! We're still building these in our garage, and would love to see them coming out of yours as well!

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    ADOPT & PROTECT THE FOREST - ENTRY PACK - Become the protector of ONE ENTIRE SQUARE KILOMETER (100 hectares) of rainforest. The area will be named after you (or another name of your choosing) in our apps and data feeds. You'll receive a digital map of your adopted area and a web portal to monitor the forest in real-time.

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    Pledge $640 or more About $640

    YOUR OWN DEVICE (EARLY-BIRD) - Own a fully functional RFCx device, built by our engineers exclusively for you to use, at this early-bird price.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    ADOPT & PROTECT THE FOREST - DOUBLE PACK - Become the protector of TWO ENTIRE SQUARE KILOMETERS (200 hectares) of rainforest. The area will be named after you (or another name of your choosing) in our apps and data feeds. You'll receive a digital map of your adopted area and a web portal to monitor the forest in real-time.

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    Pledge $1,500 or more About $1,500

    PONO SPECIAL EDITION + ADOPT & PROTECT THE FOREST - RIGHTEOUS PACK - Become the protector of THREE ENTIRE SQUARE KILOMETERS (300 hectares) of rainforest. The area will be named after you (or another name of your choosing) in our apps and data feeds. You'll receive a digital map of your adopted area and a web portal to monitor the forest in real-time. — As a special gift from our friend and supporter, Neil Young, adopters of the Righteous Pack will also receive a unique, limited edition 'Rainforest Connection' PonoPlayer in chrome, laser engraved with the Rainforest Connection logo & certified as one of only 10 such PonoPlayers ever produced. Includes a handmade leather case with presentation box, and ships Dec, 2014.

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    Pledge $5,000 or more About $5,000

    PANAMA INDIGENOUS ECOTOUR - One week stay at Earth Train’s Centro Mamoní in the 10,000-acre Mamoní Valley Preserve. At forest’s edge next to Guna Yala, the semi autonomous territory of the indigenous Guna, you’re in for a diversity of cross-cultural and ecological fun and adventure. Airfare not included.

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    Pledge $10,000 About $10,000

    YOUR OWN PILOT PROJECT — Do you have a forest that needs protecting here in North America? Or would you like to help us protect the Redwoods here in California? For $10k, we can bring the RFCx system to wherever you need it (anywhere in North America), set it up to protect an area of up to 8 square miles, and work with you (or local officials) to use it. This is hugely important to us. The forests are in our backyard must be protected as well.

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    Pledge $10,000 About $10,000

    PANAMA INDIGENOUS ECOTOUR - DOUBLE - One week stay for two people at Earth Train’s Centro Mamoní in the 10000-acre Mamoní Valley Preserve. At forest’s edge next to Guna Yala, the semi autonomous territory of the indigenous Guna, you’re in for a diversity of cross-cultural and ecological fun and adventure. Airfare not included.

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Funding period

- (35 days)