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Protecting the world’s threatened rainforests is key to slowing climate change. Trees trap large amounts of carbon dioxide and evaporate water, creating thick cloud cover that reflects sunlight and cools the earth below. But this vital global resource is being depleted at an alarming rate, as illegal and legal logging destroys more than 32 million¹ acres of rainforest each year.

Rainforest Connection, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, wanted to build technical solutions and partnerships around the world to help fight deforestation, protect the environment and educate people about the natural world. Starting with a big idea, it needed an innovative tech partner to bring the concept to life and scale it up to protect rainforests across the globe. Hitachi, a leading technology innovator dedicated to improving quality of life by creating greater social, environmental and economic value, came to Rainforest Connection to provide a missing link to a crucial and ambitious initiative.

Rainforest Connection has developed small custom logic boards as forest listening devices, placing them on treetops with solar panels to provide their power. The units, called “guardians,” upload a continuous recording of the forest’s soundscape, transmitting the audio to the cloud for further analysis. The goal, says Bourhan Yassin, Rainforest Connection’s chief operating officer: Empower local partners, indigenous tribes, and local people with timely alerts to fight against deforestation and poaching. The data-powered system devised by Rainforest Connection and Hitachi uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to deliver rapid insight into what’s happening in vast forest ecosystems, identify potentially harmful behavior, and help communities pinpoint damaging activity before it happens.

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