Big data and dis­rup­tive tech­nolo­gies for forestry com­pa­nies

Un­lock­ing the true value of data

Australian Forests and Timber - - Foresttech -

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.

App-ro­pri­ate ad­vance­ment

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.

Vir­tual re­al­ity

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

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