The world’s forests play an enormous role in air purification, preventing soil erosion, providing habitat for wildlife and as a natural and renewable resource for a wide variety of products. But the changing climate is threatening trees on a global level, with massive wildfires taking place far outside what used to be “fire season” and in places previously thought safe. Meanwhile, drought, illegal logging and deforestation for agricultural use adds even more stressors to our forests.
Forest managers are learning that connected sensors can provide real-time data on a number of forest health metrics. Key to that is the connectivity itself: It must be affordable, scalable and, above all, ubiquitous. Terrestrial networks that don’t reach beyond the forest’s edge are ill-equipped to provide the coverage necessary to monitor the whole forest, making satellite the logical choice.
But satellite-based solutions offered today are typically expensive, require large ground terminals and are often unable to provide real-time data delivery. Many in use today are of the "beep IoT" variety, with inadequate data rates to meet the demand for artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning at the edge.
The E-Space IoT constellation in development solves all of those problems by providing comprehensive global coverage connecting potentially millions of low-cost, easy-to-install IoT devices and sensors. Adding additional bandwidth and AI to the mix will enable forest managers to receive actionable intelligence from the field in real-time, allowing them to respond quickly.
Early detection of forest fires from connected sensors is a prime use for IoT and an important tool to monitor biotic issues like insects and invasive species and other forest threats. But there are many other use cases that can make an enormous impact for forest health and industry, such as:
- Forest health monitoring: Connected sensors that enable remote sensing can provide a comprehensive, wide-area picture of soil moisture for drought prediction and better understanding of terrestrial carbon, energy and water cycles.
- Logging and timber management: IoT devices can track the movement of logging equipment, vehicles and timber to help ensure sustainable logging practices and prevent illegal logging.
- Improved seeding: To repopulate a burned forest, soil moisture and weather projections gained from sensors is of high importance for successful reseeding.
- Weather and climate monitoring: IoT weather stations in forests can collect data on temperature, precipitation, wind speed and more to help researchers and forest managers understand the impact of climate change on forests.
- Biodiversity Monitoring: IoT technology helps in recording and analyzing data on plant and animal species diversity in forests.
The data from all these sensors, delivered in real time, enable researchers, authorities, timber companies, conservationists and others to make highly informed decisions about the world’s forests.