Big data and disruptive technologies for forestry companies
Unlocking the true value of data
It's the one forestry technology event every year that brings in forest resource managers, inventory foresters, GIS specialists and researchers from throughout Australasia. Last year, more than 250 delegates attended the end-of-year ForestTECH series. It highlighted new data collection technologies and advances on accessing, processing and better interpreting the associated big data streams that were being collected out in the field.
Rapid improvements in smartphones and tablets, the development of user friendly forestry apps and increasing connectivity has changed just how forestry companies are using this data to improve their forest operations – everything from the measurement of stand volumes through to the scheduling around wood flows and logistics.
Ask any forester, the technology has moved on considerably in just 12 months.
The quality and quantity of data being collected through an array of new sensors and platforms has increased exponentially. The task now being grappled with is how best to sort through and use the collected data and convert it into something that’s useable for all stakeholders.
The focus for this year’s ForestTECH 2017 series will be on “unlocking the true value of data” for local forestry operations. New systems for better measuring, managing and analysing this information will again be reviewed as part of this year’s technology series.
Outside the square
TreeMetrics, an Irishbased forestry software company always thinking “outside the square” are developing a new system for tracking tree and forest growth. The company has developed sensors strapped to trees that once a month are broadcasting information on the rate of growth to a network which can then be communicated via satellite. Without major inventories, the plan is that the new system will be able to provide clear regular data on both the trees’ and forests’ development. TreeMetrics will be presenting at ForestTECH 2017 on their new “Internet of Trees”.
Recent in-forest trials by leading technology providers and forestry companies have also been completed. The outputs now being built into dayto-day forest planning and operations. Numerous projects have been finished and the results along with new tools and templates are now ready to be presented to local companies.
A number of key findings are linked to the world class three year, $1.8 million collaborative research project jointly funded by Forest & Wood Products Australia (FWPA), forestry companies, universities and government. Research outputs that can now be picked up by local forestry companies include methods to map forest canopies using aerial photography that are effective and cost less than other airborne remote sensing techniques or fieldbased measurements.
An “app” has been developed to count individual trees using 3D point cloud data acquired from airborne remote sensing, a forest sampling method has been devised that can significantly reduce the number of reference plots required to produce a representative model of the variability in a forest stand and best practice guidelines have been developed for airborne data collection. This is going to assist local
forestry companies to achieve efficiency gains from remote sensing of the forest estate and to integrate dense 3D point cloud data into their operational workflows.
In addition, disruptive technologies such as AI, the IOT, machine and deep learning, robotics, automation and the use of virtual and augmented reality for data visualization are now also really starting to make their presence felt in business, including forestry operations.
According to McKinsey, a global consulting company, 45% of work activities could actually be automated using technology that was being demonstrated in 2016. This suggests that the advancement and adoption of automated technologies is likely to play out a lot quicker that many of us appreciate. Augmented reality, 3-D printing, drones and robotics will grow in disruptive significance in the next three years but PwC is predicting that AI is going to boost the global economy by US$15.7 trillion by 2030. In a report by Accenture (presenting this year at the ForestTECH 2017 series), they’re suggesting that the impact of AI technologies on business is expected to boost labor productivity by up to 40% by fundamentally changing the way that work is done and reinforcing the role of people to drive growth in business.
As outlined, these technologies are already being reviewed and used in forestry operations. In forestry, virtual reality technologies for example are already being applied to visualisation of point cloud data being collected from remote sensing. Hiab have introduced virtual reality goggles as part of a new system enabling log loading from the cab of a truck. VR is also being used by engineers to design truck engines.
In orchards and vineyards, machine vision and machine learning is being applied to automate such things as counting buds, shoots and fruits that are largely hidden from most sensors out in the field. Understanding the technology and how just how it is and can be integrated into forestry operations will be a key part of this year’s ForestTECH 2017 event.
This year’s series will run in Rotorua, New Zealand on 1516 November and then again in Melbourne, Australia on 21-22 November 2017. In addition to the very latest research, trials and webbased tools around LiDAR, an introductory workshop is being held at the venue the day after each ForestTECH 2017 conference. Run by Dr. Martin Isenburg from rapidlasso, Germany and Interpine, it will be covering how to manipulate, process and visualize LiDAR datasets, with a specific focus on forestry derived outputs. Further details can be found on the ForestTECH website, www.foresttech.events