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Monitoring the forest environment based on the IoT technology

Monitoring the forest environment based on the IoT technology

This September, Dr. Behnaz MoradiGhiasabadi starts her one-year visiting scholarship at York and EUC work-study student, Xinyu Mei, interviews her on her plans for engagement and research at the Faculty.

Behnaz MoradiGhiasabadi

Q. Why did you decide to pursue a visiting scholarship at York University?

A. First of all, let me thank the Faculty for giving me this opportunity to be a visiting scholar at York University -- I really appreciate it. There are lots of reasons why I applied as a visiting scholar at York. One of the most important reasons is the opportunity to collaborate with esteemed scholars related to my proposed project on forest management system using the Internet of Things (IOT) technology. I am glad that I can collaborate with Prof. Tarmo Remmel in this field of research of forest management. I have done radio frequency identification (RFID) in the oak forests of Iran, Dena protected area. My research's main assumption was that when trees are cut down, get sick, or burned, they disappear altogether because they have no identity and their important information is not recorded in. So using an integrated design, we gave them identity -- not paper identity, but electronic identity which I call Digital Tree Identifier (DTI) which has been patented.

There are other reasons why I applied to York and that is because of its high QS world university ranking, it's reputation as an international leader in sustainability research and teaching practices, as well as its international research network.

Q. Can you further expound on your current research?

Global distribution of forests showing the ten countries with the largest forest area, 2020 (million hectares and % of world’s forest) ( State of the World’s Forests, 2020).

A. Every one knows the necessity of forest protection or conservation. Forest is the hub of the earth’s terrestrial biodiversity. Forest mitigates carbon emission and climate change. Forest provides livelihood and it is essential for sustainable food and medicinal production, but deforestation and forest degradation continue at extensive levels leading to the depletion of biodiversity.

Many issues lead to deforestation: permanent and illegal logging, fires, diseases, and so on. In the meantime, fires, both of natural and human cause, are considered an important ecological hazard that has profound effects on the region, especially in areas with high risk fire potential. In this research, a solution will be presented for monitoring the forest environment based on the IoT technology. I will try to define an intelligent system in which parameters such as temperature, concentration of gases, humidity, wind speed and sound are monitored. In the practical part of the research, an IoT device will be developed for monitoring the temperature parameter as a pilot. Perhaps a more suitable phrase for overall the process is: "Forest digitalization” which refers to all stages of the process including sensing, storage, transmitting, data processing, and information usage, wherein all of these are run by using a type of digital method. Our final goal is to achieve sustainable forest management aided by new technologies without the need for any changes in forests.

Q. What are the major challenges in your research work?

Forest management system is very complicated because there are lots of conflicting goals and targets, functions, stakeholders and values. For example, forest's economic function and protection -- they are conflicted. In forest management, we must identify all the functions, values, services and ensure their performance continuity for ever. To identify, measure and monitor these conflicting functions, we need criteria and indicators that are clear, flexible, reliable and compatible with the country's economic, social and cultural conditions. In this regard, we conform to the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) Agenda 21, Chapter 11 for identifying criteria and indicators in evaluating the country's progress in terms of implementing forest management system.

IOT device Growth up to 2025 (Source: Statistica.com)

My most important challenge was choosing the right criteria and indicators as well as discovering their connectivity (relationship) and the needs that strongly conflicted to each other. There were also a number of indicators so I decided to value and determine the priority, weight and importance of the criteria and indicators through Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP) and expert choice.

This part took a lot of time so I did some statistical analysis in terms of validity and reliability. Through this proses, the criterion on the maintenance and enhancement of long-term multiple socio-economic benefits to meet the needs of societies got first priority. The criterion on legal, institutional and economic framework for forest conservation and unstainable management got second priority. And last, but not the least, the development and application of research and technologies for the sustainable management of forests got third priority, hence, I used the IOT approach and technology for forest sustainable management.

Q. What is IOT?

Total Research of IOT Subject up to 2018. Source: M. Dachar et al., Knowledge growth and development: internet of things (IoT) research, 2006–2018, Heliyon 5 (2019) e02264.

A. The Internet of Things (IOT) is a relatively new paradigm that is growing rapidly in modern wireless communication scenarios in various fields and it is predicted to grow even more in the next 5 following years. The main idea of this concept is the pervasive presence of all kinds of objects around us, Including RFID tags, sensors, actuators, cell phones, etc. - which, through unique addressing schemes, are able to coordinate with each other by interacting and collaborating to achieve common goals The term IoT was first coined in 1999 by the British Kevin Ashton and research and articles in this field are increasing. Ashton introduced the concept in the context of a world in which everything and every object has a digital identity and is controlled and managed by computers. In the IoT paradigm, many of the objects that surround us are networked in one or more forms. Sensor network technologies are emerging to meet this new challenge, in which invisible information and communication systems are embedded in our environment. This generates a wealth of information that must be stored, processed, and presented in an integrated, efficient, and easily interpretable format. Cloud computing can provide the virtual infrastructure for such computing that integrates monitoring devices, storage, analytics tools, and visualization platforms.

Nowadays, IoT system has become one of the common systems in various fields. It is an interconnected system of computer equipment, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals, or individuals identified by unique identifiers (UIDs) capable of transmitting data over a network without the need for human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction. Today, organizations in various industries and businesses are increasingly using IoT capabilities to operate more efficiently and effectively; to provide better services. The Internet of Things has evolved from the convergence of wireless technologies and the Internet. This convergence has helped to bridge the gap between operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) and has made it possible to analyze data to gain the desired insight to improve the status. Wireless Sensor Networks (WSNs) are one of the important component in this developing system of IoT. So such a systems have a large applicability and the environmental field can also benefits from this innovation. IoT system has a solution for forest protection (GSMA | IoT, 2020).

Network structure architecture of LoRaWAN

LoRaWAN is one of the main Low Power Wide Area Networking (LPWAN) protocols for the Internet of Things. It allows the low-powered devices to communicate with Internet-connected applications over long range wireless connections. It consists of Laura-based end devices (sensors and operators called end-Device), LoRaWAN Gateways, network servers, and finally user applications and software LoRaWAN network architecture is deployed in a star-of-stars topology in which gateways relay messages between end-devices and a central network server. After receiving the data from the gateway, the gateway sends the information over an internet-based communication link to the network server. This connection link can be designed by LTE / 3G or internal networks. The information is then provided to the user software by the network server. In fact, the gateway and network server act as an intermediary between the user software and the end devices, allowing data to reach the software. In LoRaWAN, data is sent (end-to-end) between devices and the user application via AES encryption. Therefore, the security of users' information is also guaranteed. LoRaWAN technology enables fully two-way communication by using symmetrical links; this is especially important in IoT services that need to send control commands from the server to the end equipment.

Q. What other topics are you most passionate about researching in the future?

I am very interested in other inter/multi-disciplinary research like impact of electronics on the environment, physics and environment integration, as well as computer science and environment. Now I am studying quantum physics and string theory. I have also worked in the field of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) for many years and am very interested in getting to know more about the Canadian guidelines in the field of EIA on industrial and service projects as well as tracking land cover changes using landscape ecology approach.

Finally, what motivated you to start doing research work in this field of study? Will you always be interested in your field of research?

Deforestation directly impacts the environment in terms of temperature, rainfall, ground-level water, air quality, wildlife, and biodiversity. According to Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, forest degradation and related biomass burning will be in part, be responsible for the rise in greenhouse gas (GHG) into the atmosphere. Forest fire is one of the causes of deforestation, as hundreds of trees are devastated each year because of forest fires in different parts of the world. Several forest fire events have been recorded during various years and valuable forest habitats will be destroyed. Forest fires are one of the major causative and accidental sources of biodiversity loss. Deterioration of productivity of terrestrial habitats and forest carbon stocks, deterioration in soil fertility and subsequent crop production, increase in atmospheric pollution and increase in the severity of landslides sensitivity. Climate imbalance rise in global warming and greenhouse emissions, soil erosion, floods occurrence, wildlife extinction and habitat loss, food insecurity, and loss of biodiversity are some of the effects of deforestation.

Lack of data regarding the products available in the forest therefore has become a challenge.  However, integration of technology will enable to build of such infrastructure that can bring the complete data of the forest in digital format. Most industries are equipped with this technology or are interested in being equipped. IoT in the forest enables us to implement the real-time monitoring of the forest environment in terms of tracking fire accidents, monitoring the health of the crop, continuous assessment of the vegetation, and real-time tracking of forest logging with the advancement in wireless communication technology and sensor technology. I believe the  implementation of IoT became an  innovative solution for overcoming the challenges in the forest.

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Behnaz MoradiGhiasabadi is Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Environment at the University Azad Damavand branch and West Tehran branch. She is an environmentalist with more than 15 years of experience as an expert in the Department of Environment and 11 years in teaching. She has received a patent on "Collection of systems for collecting, monitoring, processing and concluding ecological, biological information of trees" and has received a recognition of Top Inventor and Researcher in 2021 and Top Technologist Academic Staff in 2022.

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