When 5G Rhymes with Biodiversity



June 18, 2019


There are currently over 600 species of plants and animals at risk of being lost in Canada.

We’re extremely fortunate to be the home to thousands of wildlife species, including over 1,000 species of pollinating insects needed to fertilize a number of fruits and crops grown in Canada.  Unfortunately, many of these species are in decline due in part to human activities. Although illegal poaching and logging are not major concerns in our nation, the fact is biodiversity is declining. According to WWF Canada, about 50% of the species monitored between 1970 and 2014 are in decline, including mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibian species.  A combination of factors like urbanization and environmental degradation are leading to this decline. 

Nature Lovers

Nature is important to Canadians in many forms and many ways.  According to the latest Canadian Nature Survey (2012), 89% of adult Canadians participated in some types of nature-based activity during the past 12 months, spending a staggering $41.3 billion.  Another high number of respondents (77%) to this survey were also aware that biodiversity contributes to ecosystem services and provide life support and other important benefits to people. Overall, this survey provided some evidence about the significant contribution that nature makes to the national economy and the quality of life of Canadians. 

Canadians care about the environment and donated in 2012 (last year being surveyed) an estimated $874 million to nature conservation organizations, with more than 3.5 million Canadians donating money on behalf of species at risk. 

The vastness and complexity of our land makes it difficult to collect information about the direct and indirect pressures on biodiversity.  This is an area where the power of 5G, with its ability to collect information remotely over long periods of time and analyze accurately vast amount of data, can provide the support that Canada needs to achieve its 2020 Biodiversity Targets.

Huawei Global Analysts Summit 2019

I was recently one of the few people invited by Huawei Canada to attend the HAS 2019 in Shenzhen, China.  This gathering was the 16th in a long series of annual meetings where Huawei, a privately-held company, shares its annual performance and strategic plans with an audience of global financial analysts and media.  I was likely one of the few in the audience with no financial nor media background since I am a veterinarian by training, passionate about the challenges of feeding the world in a sustainable manner.  Quite some way from 5G!  In fact, I studied a bit about 5G ahead of my trip just to make sure I could better understand the presentations.  My online search had led me to understand that 5G means, among other things, ubiquitous connectivity (no more dark spots without networks!), greater capacity (more data and more users at the same time) and reduced latency (time taken for devices to respond to each other over the wireless network).  These characteristics offer a wide range of potential applications, from the possibility to perform delicate surgeries remotely to the much-anticipated self-driven cars.  In essence, 5G is a revolution, not just faster 4G!

The presentations were indeed quite technical and it was so different from the type of meetings I am used to attending.  We were talking about artificial intelligence, Cloud, hardware performance and cost, energy savings and profit.  I was starting to miss my usual meetings on feeding the world in a sustainable manner. However, I found out that Huawei is committed to helping achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals using ICT.  

Read more: Accelerating SDGs through ICT.

Indeed, saving energy has a positive impact on greenhouse gas emissions – if not by reducing the total amount of emissions, at least 5G will allow us to achieve more out of the same impact on the environment.  In addition, knowing that younger generations like the Gen Z want to interact with companies and brands doing good for the world, were they not missing the chance to gain the attention of the biggest demographic segment for the years to come?  But towards the end of the presentation by Ken Hu, Huawei Deputy’s Chairman, I got really enthusiastic about 5G and how Huawei was using it: Protecting biodiversity! 

Stopping Illegal Poaching & Habitat Loss with Technology

Huawei is partnering with Rain Forest Connection and uses 5G technologies to monitor rain forests around the world for signs of illegal deforestation and poaching.  Given old mobile phones a second life, they have set-up solar-powered audio monitoring systems called “Guardians” in rain forests in several countries.  As you may expect, rain forests are extremely rich in sounds made by birds, frogs, insects, mammals and humans.  In this dense environment, it is quite hard to detect unusual noises, a sure sign of some illegal activities in the surroundings.  Using Huawei’s advanced artificial intelligence, they have developed ways to identify accurately distant noises made by vehicles, chainsaws and people, giving a chance for game rangers to intervene.  According to the UN, up to 90% of the logging in tropical rain forests is illegal and the clearing of rain forest is one of the primary causes of climate change. 

Huawei is also working with RFCx to analyze the sounds made by spider monkeys, a species facing a high risk of extinction in the tropical rain forests in Central and South America. (Watch the video below.)

Protecting spider monkeys in Costa Rica using upcycled Huawei phones and AI

In addition to being hunted for foods by indigenous people, spider monkeys are also affected by logging that threaten their habitat.  By analyzing the sound made by the spider monkeys, they can detect in real time when these animals are upset and threatened, allowing game rangers to investigate the causes of their changed behaviors and protect them. 

Nature and its biodiversity are good for business and for our well-being.  Conserving biodiversity helps maintain ecosystems, a source of economic, social and ecological benefits to Canadians.  Let’s embrace all parties willing to contribute to this key objective for Canadians as individuals and as a nation.


This is a guest post by Dr. Vincent Guyonnet

About the author: Vincent has represented the global poultry industry to intergovernmental organizations (including OIE, FAO, and the World Bank) on global issues such as animal welfare, biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions, food safety, nutrition, and food security, as well as the overall sustainability of animal production. Vincent is passionate about working with smallholder farmers in developing countries and the potential of wireless technologies to bring new livelihood opportunities in the developing world.

Disclaimer: Any views and/or opinions expressed in this post by individual authors or contributors are their personal views and/or opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views and/or opinions of Huawei Technologies.

Leave a Comment

Posted in 5G Posted in 5G
Published by


View all posts >