Team Aheba Foxes' Vodafone 24 project wants to save tigers from extinction, using only your old, abandoned smartphones...
We’re counting down the top three entries from this year’s Vodafone 24 competition: our unique createathon where we give teams of students a chance to win a summer internship with us at our Vodafone HQ in Newbury!
Today it’s the turn of Team Aheba Foxes – made up of Ana-Maria Sufana and Cristina-Diana Cojocaru from the University of Kent – and their tiger preservation project, which won second place this year. But before we got onto the idea, we had to ask: why tigers?
Team Aheba Foxes
“Well, I’ve loved tigers ever since I was a kid,” says Ana. “I got to hold one when I was small, and the fascination has been there ever since. In the time that they’ve been endangered, I’ve always wanted to try and do something about it.
“Tigers are in very serious danger of extinction in the wild.”
“Tigers are in very serious danger of extinction in the wild,” she continues, “since 1991, 90% of the world’s tigers have disappeared, largely because of human hunting, poaching and deforestation. Tigers are the top of the food chain, so extinction or even endangerment has real implications for the rest of the ecosystem.
“If they disappear, everything else loses its natural balance.”
The world’s tiger population is at crisis point; Ana’s figures are staggering. Of the nine subspecies that used to exist, three have been made extinct in the last 90 years or so. Some subspecies, like the Indochinese tiger and famous Siberian tiger, are right on the brink – there are less than 300 of each in the world today – and the South China tiger is suspected to be extinct in the wild already. No-one has seen one since the 1970s.
“We did a lot of research on environmental issues and we came across a Kickstarter project called Rainforest Connection. We thought the idea was fantastic, but it was something that could be used in so many other ways, for example, helping to protect tigers.”
Rainforest Connection is a project that uses smartphones as the basis for a network of rainforest communicators, designed specifically to listen for illegal logging activity. Aheba Foxes took that idea, and ran with it:
“Lots of us have old, still-working smartphones lying around that we don’t use anymore. The idea for our project is that people would donate those smartphones to us, and we would transform them into detection devices, putting them in the rainforest. We could use the smartphone’s camera and microphone to monitor activity in the local area, and equip it with solar panels to keep it powered.
“It’ll pick up audio all the time, but the infrared camera is movement-sensitive, so it’ll only start recording when it sees something moving. When the system picks up something significant, like poachers, it would notify local authorities, who could check to see what was going on through the camera and audio feeds, and respond if necessary.
Therein lies one of the main challenges that Aheba Foxes were aware of, should the system ever be implemented:
“We’d need to find communities that would supervise the whole system,” Ana explains, “and find people that care about the cause and are willing to invest time in looking at the videos and alerting the local authorities. We’d want to build links with the local communities as part of the project too.
“The crucial bit of the device is the phone battery. We’re still not 100% sure that the battery could provide enough power for the audio and video feeds at once, it would be difficult to know until we built one! It would also depend on the rainforest canopy and the location of the device – if it isn’t getting enough sun, it’s going to struggle to work consistently.”
A lightbulb moment…
Like this year’s third-place winners Team ThreeC, Aheba Foxes entered last year as well, and came back for more with some useful experience under their belts:
“I think we’re both more efficient working under pressure than we were,” says Ana. “There was more pressure this year because it was our second year participating and we really wanted to do something good. That definitely pushed us more.
“Last year we focused a lot on the presentation itself, rather than doing more research into the project and fleshing out the ideas. We focused more on the marketing rather than the actual content, if you like. I think we got the balance better this time round.
“The 24 hour time limit made us come up with really good ideas…”
“The 24 hour time limit made us come up with really good ideas that I’m not sure we would have come up with otherwise,” says Ana in closing. “When you’re brainstorming idea after idea, you have to develop those ideas. And in doing that we learnt so many things outside the scope of our final project.
“We were determined to go with an idea that really grabbed us immediately, but I think it took us around 8 hours to come up with something we liked! But once we did, it was a bit of a light bulb moment – we knew this was the right project.”
Meet our winners… We’ll be unveiling this year’s winners very soon! Keep it locked to Vodafone Social soon to find out, or click here for more information on Vodafone 24.