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Rainforest Connection wants to predict deforestation before it happens.
Develop a model based on bio-acoustics and data science that can identify potential logging activities before they occur.
Every two seconds, an area of rainforest the size of a football field is destroyed. It's causing the extinction of hundreds of animal and plant species every year, contributing to droughts and threatening indigenous reserves. Deforestation also accounts for 10%1 of all worldwide carbon emissions, making it a massive factor in global warming.
"With up to 90% of logging in tropical rainforests classified as illegal, we're helping teams on the ground take action," explains Topher White, CEO and Founder at Rainforest Connection. "We're committed to using bio-acoustics, big data analytics and cloud computing to help protect the world's rainforests."
Using mobile technology in treetops, known as 'guardians', Rainforest Connection is listening in to the forest to identify logging activity. Audio data is uploaded to the cloud, where it is analyzed for sounds of gun shots, chainsaws and trucks. These noises trigger alerts to teams of local rangers, so they can go and investigate.
The organization has been providing rangers with real-time acoustic information since 2013, but rangers often arrive too late to prevent the damage being done. "We wanted to get more predictive," says White. "It's not just about predicting what might happen in the future, but also understanding what might be happening right now that we can't explicitly hear. For example, a hunter might not make a sound, but we can identify the movement of animals and birds in response to the threat. We recognized that with advanced analytics capabilities, we might be able to provide on-the-ground teams with a better warning system and longer lead times."
With thousands of devices streaming data to the cloud, Rainforest Connection also needs an infrastructure capable of processing large volumes of data in real time. As a not-for-profit, the organization is heavily reliant on grants and charitable donations, including services from major tech companies. To make the most of the resources available, its IT environment must be scalable, agile and platform-agnostic so it can move between different cloud providers.
Rainforest Connection started talking to Hitachi Vantara about these needs in December 2018, which initiated two major projects, both of which are being delivered as pro bono activities.
The first of these - Project Rain - started in February 2020. As part of the project, Rainforest Connection is working with Hitachi Vantara’s data scientists to create an AI-based model that will predict logging events before they actually happen. "Using up to five months’ worth of acoustic data from Sumatra’s rainforests and using the AI and machine learning algorithms, the Hitachi Vantara team has developed two different models to detect acoustic anamolies and disturbances," explains Bourhan Yassin, Chief Operating Officer at Rainforest Connection. "We’re currently testing them to identify the most effective solution."
Rainforest Connection has also been working with Hitachi Vantara to design a new cloud platform that will support continuous integration (CI) and continuous delivery (CD). The solution enables Rainforest Connection’s developers to deliver new code and updates faster, accelerating innovation. It also features strong authentication and security measures to safeguard the organization’s data.
The new platform simplified the transition from AWS to Google Cloud, and will ensure future migrations are also seamless. Thanks to Hitachi Vantara’s long-term strategic partnership with Google, Rainforest Connection can ensure it’s using the latest best-practice processes and technologies. The new platform is based on the open-source Google Kubernetes Engine, which combines over 15 years of Google's experience running production workloads at scale with ideas and practices from the community. Hitachi Vantara has been working closely with both Google and Rainforest Connection at every stage of the project to make decisions, share knowledge and train the internal team.
Phase two of the infrastructure project, which starts October 2020, involves implementing a composable cloud Data Lake. With a platform-agnostic data lake, Rainforest Connection will be able to maximize the value of its data without having to worry about security or networking overheads. "Working with Hitachi Vantara has been amazing," says Yassin. "It’s a true partnership with complete transparency. Hitachi Vantara has been focused on helping us make use of all the resources available to us – wherever they come from."
The projects have seen different departments across Hitachi Vantara – including Digital Advisory services (DVE - Digital Value Enablement), Data Science, Innovation Excellence, Cloud Modernization and Data and Analytics consulting services teams – all coming together to help with a common cause.
Project Rain is showing great potential, with one predictive model in particular already achieving an 80% confidence interval. The team is now working to refine and improve it. Rainforest Connection is hoping to put the new model into the production environment for further testing with real guardians and rangers in Sumatra by December 2020. "With advance warning of logging activities, our partners on the ground will be able to take appropriate action faster, and potentially save more trees and animals," says White.
Rainforest Connection is hoping to eventually adapt the model to detect potential deforestation at different sites across the globe. With the new cloud infrastructure, the organization will have the scalability and flexibility to support this expansion.
The new platform supported by composable cloud data lake architecture will also enhance security for Rainforest Connection. "Our activities have significant consequences for people living and working around the rainforests, so we don’t want our data getting into the wrong hands," explains Yassin. "Thanks to the Hitachi Vantara partnership, we now have a secure, agile and scalable cloud solution that will help us protect more rainforests around the world."
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With advance warning of logging activities, our partners on the ground will be able to take appropriate action faster, and potentially save more trees and animals.
– Topher White, CEO and Founder, Rainforest Connection