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Absorbing large amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere, rainforests, with all their diverse animals and plants, play a critical role in slowing climate change and protecting biodiversity.
However, the world’s rainforests are now facing threats. Today, illegal logging is taking place around the world, and more than 32 million acres of rainforest each year are being destroyed. Also, with up to 90% of logging in tropical rainforest classified as illegal and deforestation accounting for almost 10% of the burden of worldwide carbon emissions, protecting these rainforests is now an urgent task for the world to address.
Rainforest Connection, a San Francisco-based nonprofit, has developed small custom logic boards to serve as "forest listening devices," placed on treetops with a solar panel to provide power. The units, called "Guardians," upload a continuous recording of the forest’s soundscape, transmitting audio data to the cloud for further analysis. The data-powered system devised by Rainforest Connection and Hitachi Vantara uses artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to deliver rapid insight into what is happening in vast forest ecosystems, helping to identify potentially harmful behavior, and assisting local communities to pinpoint damaging activity before it happens.
One of the biggest challenges for Rainforest Connection was to alert people to threats from illegal loggers as quickly as possible. In order to make this happen, Hitachi Vantara participated in Project Rain, an effort to create an AI-based analytical model that could predict illegal logging events before they actually happen. In this project, Hitachi’s AI technology was used to help discern the different sounds animals make when a person walks in with a gun, or if a truck drives in. By using up to five months’ worth of acoustic data from Sumatra’s rainforests in Indonesia and employing AI and machine learning algorithms, data scientists from the Hitachi Vantara team ultimately developed two different models for detecting acoustic anomalies and disturbances. Project Rain has already shown great potential, with one predictive model in particular already achieving an 80% confidence interval.
Now, Rainforest Connection has ambitious plans in place to continue to learn from the data it is collecting, to unlock continued insights about our planet well into the future.
Hitachi Vantara will continue to accelerate the pace of innovation through collaborative creation with customers and contribute to efforts to protect the natural environment and the future of life.