Using M2M to Save the Trees

David Wagner, Managing Editor | 1/22/2013 | 21 comments

David Wagner
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.

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

View Comments: Newest First | Oldest First | Threaded View
Page 1 / 3   >   >>
Susan Nunziata   Using M2M to Save the Trees   1/30/2013 7:23:15 PM
Re: How long do the batteries last?
@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. 
David Wagner   Using M2M to Save the Trees   1/30/2013 5:53:56 PM
Re: How long do the batteries last?
@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.
Susan Nunziata   Using M2M to Save the Trees   1/30/2013 5:48:39 PM
Re: How long do the batteries last?
@David: In the realm of unintended consequences, then, let's hope they're not creating a potential pollution crisis down the road in an effort to save the trees. 
David Wagner   Using M2M to Save the Trees   1/29/2013 3:11:04 PM
Re: How long do the batteries last?
@Susan- I'm sure technically they could replace the batteries. But given the distances and the numbers it would not be cost effective.
Susan Nunziata   Using M2M to Save the Trees   1/29/2013 12:11:41 AM
Re: How long do the batteries last?
@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.
David Wagner   Using M2M to Save the Trees   1/28/2013 1:59:56 AM
Re: GG M2M
@JPoe- An astute point about the demand versus the cost of defending it. It is sad to say but Amazoning deforestation is so alarmingly fast, we've reached that point.
David Wagner   Using M2M to Save the Trees   1/28/2013 1:58:32 AM
Re: How long do the batteries last?
@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.
Zaius   Using M2M to Save the Trees   1/27/2013 4:07:26 PM
Re: It's a start
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.
Susan Nunziata   Using M2M to Save the Trees   1/24/2013 7:10:57 PM
How long do the batteries last?
@Dave: this is a fantastic article and a really innovative use of m2m. I'm curious, once the modules are implanted in the trees, how much battery life do they have?
Nemos   Using M2M to Save the Trees   1/24/2013 5:58:15 AM
Re: GG M2M
That's is true also, interesting observation too, and it is another reason for us to protect our environment.
Page 1 / 3   >   >>

The blogs and comments posted on do not reflect the views of TechWeb,, or its sponsors., TechWeb, and its sponsors do not assume responsibility for any comments, claims, or opinions made by authors and bloggers. They are no substitute for your own research and should not be relied upon for trading or any other purpose.

More Blogs from David Wagner
David Wagner   5/30/2014   21 comments
For almost three and a half years I have had the pleasure and real privilege to write the Geekend for you every Friday. Fortunately, that privilege isn't ending, it is just moving to our ...
David Wagner   5/23/2014   69 comments
Most of us have gone through the pain of losing a beloved pet. Maybe you lived a long and happy life together, and it died peacefully. Maybe it was tragically struck down by a car or a ...
David Wagner   5/22/2014   47 comments
It is a rare thing when you find me advocating for the government to get more involved in regulating technology, but when it comes to the Internet of Things, that is what I'm advocating. ...
David Wagner   5/21/2014   13 comments
E2 has long trumpeted the days when 3D printers would sit on our desks and print prototypes, consumer goods, and even body parts right from our desk, but a new cloud manufacturing company ...
David Wagner   5/16/2014   40 comments
With Disney's success with the Avengers franchise, geeks everywhere are being treated to an outrageously large number of TV shows and movies based on comic book superhero characters. For ...
Latest Archived Broadcast
We talk with Bernard Golden about accelerating application delivery in the cloud.
On-demand Video with Chat
Register for this video discussion to learn how tablets can provide true business usability and productivity.
E2 IT Migration Zones
IT Migration Zone - UK
Why PowerShell Is Important
Reduce the Windows 8 Footprint for VDI
Rethinking Storage Management
IT Migration Zone - FR
SQL Server : 240 To de mémoire flash pour votre data warehouse
Quand Office vient booster les revenus Cloud et Android de Microsoft
Windows Phone : Nokia veut davantage d'applications (et les utilisateurs aussi)
IT Migration Zone - DE
Cloud Computing: Warum Unternehmen trotz NSA auf die „private“ Wolke setzen sollten
Cloud Computing bleibt Wachstumsmarkt – Windows Azure ist Vorreiter
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Enterprise Efficiency Twitter Feed
Site Moderators Wanted
Enterprise Efficiency is looking for engaged readers to moderate the message boards on this site. Engage in high-IQ conversations with IT industry leaders; earn kudos and perks. Interested? E-mail:
Dell's Efficiency Modeling Tool
The major problem facing the CIO is how to measure the effectiveness of the IT department. Learn how Dell’s Efficiency Modeling Tool gives the CIO two clear, powerful numbers: Efficiency Quotient and Impact Quotient. These numbers can be transforma¬tive not only to the department, but to the entire enterprise.

Read the full report
The State of Enterprise Efficiency in the Virtual Era: Virtualization – Smart Approaches to Maximize Gains
Virtualization is a presence in nearly all enterprise data centers. But not all companies are using it to its best effect. Learn the common characteristics of success, what barriers companies face, and how to get the most from your efforts.

Read the full report
Informed CIO: Dollars & Sense: Virtual Desktop Infrastructure
Cut through the VDI hype and get the full picture -- including ROI and the impact on your Data Center -- to make an informed decision about your virtual desktop infrastructure deployments.

Read the full report
A Video Case Study – Translational Genomics Research Institute
e2 Video

On the Case
TGen IT: Where We're Going Next

7|11|12   |   08:12   |   10 comments

Now that TGen has broken new ground in genomic research by using Dell's storage, cloud, and high-performance computing solutions, the company discusses what will come next for it and for personalized medicine.
On the Case
Better Care Through Better Communications

6|6|12   |   02:24   |   11 comments

The achievements of the TGen/Dell project could improve how all people receive healthcare, because they are creating ways to improve end-to-end communication of medical data.
On the Case
TGen IT: Where We Are Now

5|15|12   |   06:58   |   6 comments

TGen is breaking new ground in genomic research by using Dell's storage, cloud, and high-performance computing solutions.
On the Case
TGen IT: Where We Were

4|27|12   |   06:45   |   10 comments

The Translational Genomics Research Institute wanted to save lives, but its efforts were hobbled by immense computing challenges related to collecting, processing, sharing, and storing enormous amounts of data.
On the Case
1,200% Faster

4|18|12   |   02:27   |   12 comments

Through their partnership, Dell and TGen have increased the speed of TGen’s medical research by 1,200 percent.
On the Case
IT May Improve Children's Chances of Survival

4|17|12   |   02:12   |   8 comments

IT is helping medical researchers reach breakthroughs in a way and pace never seen before.
On the Case
Medical Advances in the Cloud

4|10|12   |   1:25   |   5 comments

TGen and Dell are pushing the boundaries of computing, and harnessing the power of the cloud to improve healthcare.
On the Case
TGen: Living the Mission

4|9|12   |   2:25   |   3 comments

TGen's CIO puts the organizational mission at the heart of everything the IT staff does.
On the Case
TGen Speeding Up Biomedical Research to Save More Lives

4|5|12   |   1:59   |   6 comments

The Translational Genomics Research Institute is revamping its computing to improve speed, storage, and collaboration – and, most importantly, to save lives.
On the Case
Computing Power Helping to Save Children's Lives

3|28|12   |   2:13   |   3 comments

The Translational Genomics Institute’s partnership with Dell is enabling them to treat kids with neuroblastoma more quickly and save more lives.
Tom Nolle
The Big Reason to Use Office

3|18|14   |   02:24   |   46 comments

Office and personal productivity tools come in a first-class and coach flavor set, but what makes the difference is primarily little things that most users won't encounter. What's the big issue in using something other than Office, and can you get around it?
E2 Editors
SPONSORED: Mobile Security — A Use Case

3|4|14   |   04:27   |   16 comments

New mobile security solutions can accommodate a wide array of needs, including those of a complex university environment.
Tom Nolle
Killing Net Neutrality Might Save You Money

1|16|14   |   2:13   |   16 comments

The DC Court of Appeals voided most of the Neutrality Order, and whatever it might mean for the Internet overall, it might mean better and cheaper Internet VPNs for businesses.
Tom Nolle
The Internet of Everythinguseful

1|10|14   |   2:18   |   19 comments

We really don't want an "Internet of Everything" but even building an Internet of Everythinguseful means setting some ground rules to insure there's value in the process and that costs and risks are minimized.
Tom Nolle
Maturing Google Chrome

12|30|13   |   2.18   |   25 comments

Google's Chrome OS has a lot of potential value and a lot of recent press, but it still needs something to make it more than a thin client. It needs cloud integration, it needs extended APIs via web services, and it needs to suck it up and support a hard drive.
Sara Peters
No More Cookie-Cutter IT

12|23|13   |   03.58   |   21 comments

Creating the right combination of technology, people, and processes for your IT organization is a lot like baking Christmas cookies.
Sara Peters
Smart Wigs Not a Smart Idea

12|5|13   |   3:01   |   46 comments

Sony is seeking a patent for wigs that contain computing devices.
Tom Nolle
Cloud in the Wild

12|4|13   |   02:23   |   15 comments

On a recent African trip I saw examples of the value of the cloud in developing nations, for educational and community development programs. We could build on this, but not only in developing economies, because these same programs are often under-supported even in first-world countries.
E2 Editors
SPONSORED: Is Malware Evading Your IPS?

11|18|13   |   03:16   |   4 comments

Intrusion prevention software is supposed to detect and block malware intrusions, but clever malware authors can evade your IPS in these five main ways.
Sara Peters
Where Have All the Mentors Gone?

9|27|13   |   3:15   |   38 comments

A good professional mentor can change your life for the better... but where do you find one?
Tom Nolle
SDN Wars & You Could Win

9|17|13   |   2:10   |   5 comments

VMware's debate with Cisco on SDN might finally create a fusion between an SDN view that's all about software and another that's all about network equipment. That would be good for every enterprise considering the cloud and SDN.
Ivan Schneider
The Future of the Smart Watch

9|12|13   |   3:19   |   39 comments

Wearing a bulky, oversized watch is good training for the next phase in wristwatches: the Internet-enabled, connected watch. Why the smartphone-tethered connected watch makes sense, plus Ivan demos an entirely new concept for the "smart watch."
Tom Nolle
Cutting Your Cloud Storage Costs

9|4|13   |   2:06   |   3 comments

Cloud storage costs are determined primarily by the rate at which files are changed and the possibility of concurrent access/update. If you can structure your storage use to optimize these factors you can cut costs, perhaps to zero.
Sara Peters
Do CIOs Need an IT Background?

8|29|13   |   2:11   |   23 comments

Most of the CIOs interviewed in the How to Become a CIO series did not start their careers as IT professionals. So is an IT background essential?
Ivan Schneider
The Internet Loves Birthdays

8|27|13   |   3:25   |   69 comments

The Internet has evolved into a machine for drumming up a chorus of "Happy Birthday" messages, from family, friends, friends of friends who you added on Facebook, random people that you circled on G+, and increasingly, automated bots. Enough already.