The Forestry Data Tsunami

In August 8, 2017

There is a tsunami of data on the horizon that presents both a challenge and opportunity for forest managers.    Data from Drones, mobile devices (phones and tablets), satellite data and the Internet of Things (Iot) are all helping to build this tsunami.

In a previous article I wrote about the expansion of drone use that will occur when flights beyond line of sight are facilitated by technology and regulatory changes.  When this occurs drone flights over larger tracts of land to capture imagery and LiDAR data will become commonplace.  However, each flight could generate terabytes of data.  Systems will be required to store, retrieve and analyze this data.

Mobile devices are being used to collect tremendous amounts of data.  Much of this data is collected actively captured by the user as photos, GPS data, and digital form based data collection.  There is also a huge amount of data that can be collected passively.  For example the GPS sensor and accelerometer could be used to collect information regarding vehicle travel speed which when combined with a measurement of vibration could be used to determine the condition of a gravel road surface.  There are many other opportunities for data collection that are only limited by our imaginations!

Satelite data presents much the same challenge as data collected with drones.  Early in 2017 Planet Labs began to offer daily imagery capture for the entire planet!  This could facilitate monitoring harvest operations and road construction.  As well, changes in plant health could be monitored throughout the growing season.  This could aid in estimating growth rates and determine candidates for activities such as fertilization.

The Internet of Things will include drones, smart phones, mobile equipment, soil sensors, weather sensors and likely new devices such as Treemetrics’’ IoTrees measuring device.  The IoTrees device will monitor tree diameter growth.  The cumulative volume of data provided by IoT devices could be massive and will only grow as the capabilities of the devices expand.

The opportunity presented by all this data is improved forest management.  This could result in both lower costs and improved value added throughout the value chain.  In order to properly capture the value from this data new methods of storage and analysis will be required.  In order to fully leverage this data I expect that the use of Artificial Intelligence will be necessary.  To get an idea of what the potential is for the forest industry I believe that we need look no further than agriculture.  Below are links to some sites that I think provide some good insight into what is coming for the forest industry.

“Big Data in Smart Farming”:  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308521X16303754

“Artifical Intelligence in Agriculture”: http://ai.business/2016/05/06/artificial-intelligence-in-agriculture-part-2-how-farming-is-going-automated-with-ai-technologies/

“Five ways agriculture could benefit from artificial intelligence”:  https://www.ibm.com/blogs/watson/2016/12/five-ways-agriculture-benefit-artificial-intelligence/

Brian Saunders
President
White Raven Innovations Limited
Cell: 250 802 6115
Email: BrianSaunders.WRI@gmail.com
Website: http://www.tablet-ex-gear.com/
Skype: BrianSaunders.WRI
Twitter: @tabletEXgear

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