5 mobile technology trends in the forestry industry

In ForestTECH, Issue12 by FIEA

The Paperless Forest

The forestry industry has been the top user of mobile technology in Finland for many years. That is a big deal when you consider that Finland is a global leader in mobile technology (thanks to Nokia and others), and a global leader in forestry (Stora Enso and others). So, what can we learn and adapt from Finland to forestry operations in other countries?

How is Finland Using Mobile Technology?

Firstly, it is revealing to know that all information moves wirelessly in Finnish forests.

The chain starts from a GPS-aided definition of the logging area and of any nature protection sites that must be preserved. The information travels via satellite to the digital maps of the forest company that has bought the wood since the buyer is responsible for harvesting and haulage to the sawmill in Finland.

Before harvesting, this map is transmitted wirelessly to the harvester’s computer. The same goes for the instructions on the harvesting volumes and the lengths to which the logs of each timber species and grades should be cut. These instructions are based on the orders from the sawmills.

The information on the volumes of different timber grades harvested is transmitted to the forest company wirelessly. Then the information about where to collect the wood from and where to deliver it is sent to the computer of the truck, along with an optimised driving route.

The harvesting and transport of wood is usually carried out by small, specialized enterprises working as subcontractors for the forest company. Their information systems are connected to that of the forest company, which closes the loop from sawmill to harvester to haulage contractor.

Now we need to keep in mind that cellular networks cover 100% of the population and a very high percentage of its landmass in Finland. This is partly due to their early start with mobile networks in the 1980s but more importantly to the 450 MHz frequency, which is better at penetrating forests and buildings that the 900 MHz or 1800MHz used elsewhere.

What’s Next?

It takes 23 years for a pine tree to grow from seedling to a mature tree. In the context of mobile technology, that is about 10 product lifecycles. During that time, you will probably receive 10,000 updates to all the software and apps on your mobile devices.

However, some things might not change such as the lack of mobile coverage in a forest. if we accept that as a constraint we have to live with, how will the next round of innovations in mobile technology benefit the forestry industry?

5 Predictions

Here are 5 areas where we believe forestry operations will benefit from mobile technology in the foreseeable future.

1. Capture Everything

RFID tags are becoming more cost effective and so powerful that we can visualise a scenario where every log is stamped with an active RFID by the head of the harvesting machine. Each log could be individually recorded as it is loaded on the truck and delivered to the mill by having an RFID reader on the lifting arm of the truck. Forest inventory could be assessed by scanning a wood pile with an RFID reader to get the exact log count.

Weighbridges could also be equipped with RFID readers to record the weight, log count and serial numbers of the load which is then sent to the mill even before the truck arrives. Everyone benefits from more automation, more transparency and more accuracy through the entire supply chain.

2. Image Recognition

If you use Google Photos you will appreciate the power of artificial intelligence in image recognition. Ask Google Photos to search for “trees” and you will be amazed at how quickly you will see every photo you have ever taken of a tree. But it’s not just about image recognition, several apps can perform image analysis and distinguish Pinus Radiata from Douglas Fir with incredible accuracy. When we harness the power of mobile technology into forestry, we should be able to use apps with image recognition, augmented reality and machine learning to perform tasks like identifying species, log grades and weight.

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Source: Mobile Mentor

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