Brazil has high hopes for curtailing illegal logging using M2M technology. You remember "High Hopes," don’t you? The song about the ant moving that rubber tree plant?
An ant moving a rubber tree plant may be just as impossible as a government tracking deforestation in the Amazon River basin. But Brazil is partnering with a company called Cargo Tracck in order to use M2M technology to track trees.
They’re going to hang M2M modules in the trees, and as long as the trees stay where they’re supposed to (trees not being known for being mobile), they’ll hang there quietly. But if the modules pass within 20 miles of a cellular network, the tree will send out a distress signal and its location, alerting authorities to illegal deforestation.
The modules are very hardy -- they can withstand the insane heat and humidity of the Amazon jungle, and they have a battery life of several years.
There are a couple of issues here, of course. The first is that the modules are about the size of a deck of cards. It is possible that thorough poachers will locate, remove, and leave behind the M2M modules. Another issue is that remote lumbering camps may exist outside of 20 miles of a cellular network. The Amazon jungle is the size of the continental United States and obviously many areas of it are very remote.
However, coupled with satellite surveillance, this appears to be a viable solution (or at least improvement) over previous methods. It also might serve as a pilot program for government CIOs elsewhere to track various illegal activities.
While governments and researchers have used RFID tags to track animals in the wild, both for research and protection, RFID’s range and reliance on specific frequencies often cause failures. Long-range RFID takes more power and expense, but most cheap, easily accessible RFID tags simply don’t have the range for this type of function.
M2M also has the advantage of two-way communication. Apps could be designed to allow the compromised asset to do more than simply alert someone that it has been stolen. Messages could be relayed to the thieves or logs could be maintained that help law enforcement prove who took the item being tracked, if it is abandoned. One could even listen in on the conversations taking place nearby.
Government CIOs looking to track assets, prevent crime, or otherwise use M2M to monitor objects in the wilderness need to answer a few questions.
Is the object worth it? M2M, while cheap, is more expensive than RFID. While RFID is not feasible for protecting trees in the Amazon, it is certainly reasonable for retail inventory control and even for the Defense Department to inventory weapons.
Is the network available? The beauty of using M2M for tracking the trees is that the government knows that eventually to sell the lumber, the trees will have to leave the wilderness for a place with cellular coverage activating the M2M modules. However, not all objects will ever be inside network coverage at an appropriate time for law enforcement.
Can you clarify the mission? M2M modules are smart, but they need rather simple instructions to work right. You can put one in a refrigerator to make sure it stays under a certain temperature, or you can tell it to contact you if it moves. But the more complicated the directions are, the less automated the process can be. The goal is to use hundreds if not thousands of these modules to monitor something you’d never have enough people to monitor. If the mission isn’t easily monitored without human intervention, then it is pointless.
Retailers and manufacturers have used M2M for years to automate processes, especially in logistics, and governments have used many of the same tricks in their logistics efforts. But now, we’re starting to see new uses for M2M that are more creative to make up for a lack of eyes. Law enforcement and government CIOs, learn a lesson and start using M2M before you start losing more rubber tree plants or whatever it is that you value.
@Dave: good point. An awful large number of episodes of "I Shouldn't Be Alive" (Animal Planet) seem to take place in the Amazon. I'm sure deforestation is much more harmful in the long run to have a bunch of m2m devices falling off trees as their life span ends.
@Susan- Hrmm..interesting. I suspect there would have to be at least some heavy metals involved.
I suspect that they EXPECT the tress where they place tem to be cut down but HOPE they won't be. If none of them are, I guess they would eventually become a problem. It does seem, however, that the Amazon seems to swallow up bigger problems than this one.
@Dave: Thanks. good point, I was thinking about this kind of like smoke alarms that would need batteries replaced every year. But of course, you could add new ones every year with fresh batteries. Redundancies would be a good thing, assuming it's cost-effective.
@susan- According to the press release "several years." My suspicion is that it will greatly vary by environment but that it is a nubers game. You put in 10,000 (or some other round number) and you expect to lost x% every year. If you put in enough the losses won't hurt until you're ready to replenish the group again.
It is a great initiative, indeed. There are chances of failing and there are chances that it will be success story. This is a mommoth task and the odds are huge. I will wait for the news from this project and wish this project success.
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