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IoT improves forest care via smart monitoring

The National Arboretum’s approach to forest care has been dramatically altered by an Internet of Things (IoT) technology research project of the University of Canberra.

According to a recent report, a group of researchers from the University designed and installed a state-of-the-art Smart IoT Platform to monitor pertinent soil data at the Arboretum.

Research-grade sensors buried at various depths in the forests are used by the IoT platform to collect soil moisture and temperature data.

These sensors are connected to the University’s proprietary smart sensor platform.

The smart sensor platform transmits the information through a synchronous, self-sustained, Wireless Sensor Network (WSN) to a central gateway, and is processed and uploaded to a secure cloud server.

Advanced analytic algorithms have been developed to process the gathered IoT data in order to deliver important environmental knowledge of forests over time.

The team worked with the staff of the Arboretum in order to understand their current processes.

Through this, the team learned how they can leverage their technologies to deliver an innovative system that provides what the staff needed. Great results have been observed since day one.

An advanced wireless mesh networking backbone is used to internet work the IoT nodes.

This connects to the Internet and allows the Arboretum staff to access the information from mobile devices anytime and anywhere through the cloud.

The system optimises irrigation and promotes greater tree growth while curbing water wastage.

It also shows in detail how saturated the site-specific soil is getting, and how long it takes to dry across the entire Arboretum site in real-time.

Before having the IoT platform, a staff member had to walk through the Arboretum’s 250 hectare site with a probe to take manual readings for 104 forests in order to monitor soil saturation levels.

Due to the burdensome nature of this manual data collection, only one reading per forest, per month could be recorded.

With the Smart IoT Platform, Arboretum staff can now get on-demand, real-time soil moisture readings up to every minute during an irrigation or rain fall event, while dynamically scaling back to 30 minutes during night time or other low-interest periods.

The platform has the capability of intelligently adjusting the sampling frequency to ensure sustainable power management.

The project has been researched for a number of years with Phase 1 delivered in 2016 as a pilot program covering just one forest.

Phase 2 in 2018 delivered coverage for ten forests, with the hope that with further funding in 2019, the remaining forests will be monitored under the platform.

The bespoke sensor board utilised by the deployed sensor nodes were custom-designed by the University’s Human Centred Technology’s IoT research labs.

It is the product of a rigorous one-year research and development phase funded by the Discovery Translation Fund 2 (DTF2) scheme by ANU Connect Ventures.

There is optimism that every council and Arboretum in Australia will see the value in sustainable water management through smart monitoring of soil saturation levels through this innovative system.

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