Addressing the environmental crisis is one of the greatest tests in human history. For us to be able to tackle environmental challenges on a global scale, we need to build sophisticated tools that allow the collection and processing of vast amounts of information.
With the newest developments in AI and IoT technologies, we now have a real opportunity to transform our own behaviour and protect biodiversity.
Here are a few examples of technology projects we admire that are paving the way for a safer, greener and more informed future:
This exciting San Francisco start-up is truly reinventing the wheel. It’s combining AI technology with old smartphones to build audio sensors that help collect vast amounts of data on illegal activity in the world’s tropical forests.
Rainforest Connection (RFCx) has spent years forging meaningful partnerships with indigenous tribes, governments, and NGOs and work closely with them to prevent illegal deforestation and animal poaching. To date, their system monitors over 26,000 hectares of forest!
(We have an interview planned with the inspiring Topher White, the founder, and CEO of Rainforest Connection, later this year so watch this space!)
Nothing warms our hearts more than seeing technology adapted to saving bees. There are several companies across the globe who are now addressing this daunting reality with hive management systems, drones monitoring the health of crops, research on parasitic cultures and more. And some are pushing the creative boundaries with the projects like this one.
In 2018, the researchers at the University of Washington developed sensor backpacks to be placed on bumblebees. Yes, you read that right - teeny, tiny backpacks on bumblebees that require only a small rechargeable battery lasting for 7 hours of flight. The sensor backpack weighs 102 milligrams. The intention is that when bees return to their hive every night, their batteries are wirelessly recharged while the information gathered throughout their travels uploads to the cloud.
Such an ingenious solution would help farmers identify and combat issues that affect bee behaviour before the pollination and proliferation of their crops further declines. The team is also planning to develop backpacks with cameras that can live-stream information back to farmers.
Photo credit: Mark Stone/ University of Washington
The pollution of our environment is an exponential challenge that seldom gets the attention it deserves. City dwellers especially lack knowledge on the daily air conditions in their local areas. Unfortunately, such information is not easily accessible. Plume Labs has built a personal air quality monitoring device called FLOW that integrates with their phone app. With this technology, people get a chance to actively participate in gathering information collectively within their network. At the press of a button which illuminates animated LEDs, the device gives its users immediate feedback on the air surrounding them, indoors and outdoors. The accompanying app provides a minute-by-minute breakdown of the pollutants people would be exposed to throughout the day. This system blends impartial global data that can be used in real-time for informing people, organisations and governments on local pollution levels. These statistics, gathered through millions of users, could build the case for better regulation and for the provision of innovations targeting air contamination.
Collecting statistics is one part of the environmental challenge, but helping people and their governments to connect to the troubling figures is another story altogether. The collaboration between HP and Conservation International called ‘Earth Insights’ achieves such impact very successfully. This project not only uses data-processing technology to monitor and assess biodiversity loss across the world’s tropical forests, but they provide the findings in the most beautiful way. With the help of hidden camera technology, millions of animal photos are captured. Through these insights, scientists can then assess how human activity and climate change has affected different species and their habitats. The project’s beautifully immersive online platform communicates vast amounts of complicated biodiversity data in a simple, impactful and emotionally engaging way.