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Forestry App 101: Creating a Forest Monitoring App

Deforestation is destroying our planet, to combat tree clearing 3 Sided Cube is helping Global Forest Watch bring data straight into the hands of environmental defenders.

GFW featured Image

Forest monitoring designed for action

Forest Watcher is a mobile application created with our client Global Forest Watch to empower users to easily monitor forests, access deforestation alerts and detect changes using near real-time data and mapping tech.

Part of the World Resources Institute, the initiative aims to harness cutting-edge technology to track what’s happening in our forests right now. Forest Watcher uses visualisation software, mapping and tracking alerts in order to help prevent deforestation, report illegal logging and help organisations to maintain an ethical supply chain.

Since launching in 2014, over 1.5 million people have visited Global Forest Watch from every single country in the world.

According to satellite data, tropical forests alone are being destroyed at a rate of about 8 million hectares (31,000 square miles) a year. That’s an area the size of South Carolina or the Czech Republic! We’re strong believers at 3 Sided Cube that technology has the power to change the planet, so we rolled up our sleeves and got to work helping to save the trees.

Forest Watcher in the field
Photo by the Jane Goodall Institute

The Challenge?

Global Forest Watch had previously worked to bring its existing online monitoring platform into the hands of forest lovers everywhere. 3 Sided Cube was challenged with making the mobile platform more dynamic, easy to use, robust and resilient. No small feat, but environmental app development is a cause we were exhilarated to rally behind.

Our team needed to unite satellite technology, open data, and crowdsourcing to guarantee access to timely and reliable information. Putting the power to halt forest loss at your fingertips.

The Solution

We used our experience in mapping technology and resilient development architecture to build upon the exisiting app, making it easy to use, available regardless of connectivity and allows users to easily view contextual data.

Forest Watcher enables users to conveniently access Global Forest Watch’s forest change data on any mobile device, navigate to areas of detected change, and collect information about what they find in order to monitor and maintain the world’s green areas.

Video by Nice & Serious

Forest Watcher Features

Map areas of interest

Users can select areas on the in-app map by drawing and editing polygons around the area they’re interested in monitoring. Maps are available offline to be used in the field by park rangers and update when connectivity is restored.

Monitor & investigate alerts

Alerts appear as coloured pixels within the map, patrols can then be made to collect evidence-based management and conservation decisions. Users can collect information (including GPS points and photos) through customisable forms.

View layers of different data

Users have options to overlay contextual data in order to manage their monitored areas. This includes protected areas, timber concessions, mining and many more, these help individual users and teams to utilise pre-programmed data in order to analyse activity in their designated areas.

Create custom reports

Customised templates let users ask a number of questions, as well as collecting images, number and text field responses. Results can be filtered by report, location, keyword and date, as well as being downloaded into an offline spreadsheet.

Collate and Upload Data-Sets

Having investigated alerts in their area of interest, users have the option to save their reports for future use. It was vital to make it possible to access the data offline in locations with poor mobile connectivity.

Technology and transparency helping to save our environment

The Global Forest Watcher platform and the Forest Watcher app makes use of sustainable technology to keep a closer eye on the planet’s forests. Satellite images allow us to provide reliable and near real-time information, along with the ability to track changes to forest cover over time.

Deforestation App Satelite Image
Image of deforestation in Brazil taken using the GFW partner’s satellite, Planet Labs.

Governments, NGOs and commercial brands including Unilever, are using the Global Forest Watch platform to track millions of hectares of canopy and ensure supply chains are ethical and sustainable. The technical revolution in big data, cloud computing, internet connectivity in remote areas, and crowdsourcing has helped to bring an unprecedented level of transparency to the problem of deforestation.

Palm Oil collection
Harvested oil palm fruit at a plantation in Indonesia. Ridhwan Siregar/WRI Indonesia.

Thousands of people around the world use the platform every day, anyone can contribute and create new knowledge, helping to stop illegal deforestation, fires and prevent any unsustainable activity.

3 Sided Cube is highly responsive and well-organized. We value their professionalism and thorough project management approach. The team delivers high-quality products reliably and on time.

Research Analyst, Global Forest Watch

Knowledge is power. With the knowledge that access to satellite imagery gives us, we can create a global power of information that could tackle other problems our planet is facing. Mapping technology and mobile app development could be used to track poaching of protected animals, halt illegal migration, spot drug and people trafficking or monitor our oceans for illegal fishing. The possibilities are endless and could save the world, if you have an idea or want to find out more then please get in touch.

Fun Fact

The ambitious project and inspiring work of the World Resources Institute brings together more than 100 partners. These include Google, NASA, and the UN Environment Programme. The team at 3 Sided Cube work closely with GFW and their partners including other development teams at Vizzuality to utilise satellite imagery which monitors the globe with a resolution as close as 30-metres.

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