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Amazon rainforest starts making phone calls

Trees get Gemalto radio tech, can ring the cops

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Trees in Brazil are being fitted with mobile telephones so they can call for help when they're cut down, alerting the authorities to illegal logging as soon as the logs get into range.

The Invisible Tracck is the size of a fag packet, and battery-powered, so it can be hidden in the branches of a tree and automatically activated when the tree is felled. Then it waits for a mobile signal, which it can pick up from 20 miles (32km) away, at which point it calls for help, allowing the authorities to swoop in.

The box uses Gemalto's BGS2 radio module, but was developed by local Brazilian outfit Cargo Tracck, which is more accustomed to tracking trucks and sells a similarly specced device for dropping into the cab, but it has now turned the technology towards tracking trees instead.

“The rainforest in Brazil is approximately the size of the United States," points out the canned quote from Gemalto, which also reminds us that the existing monitoring systems, which use satellite images, are often too late to be useful in tracking down the loggers and proving it was them.

The Invisible Tracck should run for a year or so before needing fresh batteries, and while the forest itself might lack network coverage, the towns which spring up around saw mills generally have enough connectivity to get the message out, and even the threat will make illegal logging more difficult if thieves have to search each tree for bugs.

Trees equipped with mobile telephones also reflect the cheapening of network technologies, and the ease with which inanimate objects are increasingly becoming part of the digital world. ®

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