Electronic tags combined with a smartphone app and central database give arborists the information they need to get every detail right. Mark Chester of PINE Technology explains how
The management of trees within the urban forest has been in the headlines in recent years. Young trees face so many challenges on the journey to becoming established. Once in the landscape (providing the planting location has been recorded), watering and postplanting maintenance can be difficult to monitor. There is often little information about a tree’s history and no easy way to record its vigour.
PINE Technology has identified several areas where using electronic tags could revolutionise the management of urban trees. These include monitoring on the nursery; correct planting; surveying; preventing pathogens entering the landscape; assessing plant health and inspecting climbing equipment.
The contractors who physically plant our trees often have a limited knowledge of best practice. Avoidable tree failures could be reduced if each tree came with simple instructions including where the root flare is, how deep and wide to dig the pit and a record of interventions such as watering that could be quickly and simply updated each time. Data would be stored both on the tag and centrally, with an end of year inspection and update to assess the condition of the tree completing the process.
Many organisations have assets that need managing. This can mean climbing ropes and harnesses that need regular condition inspections under the LOLER regulations; chainsaws and other equipment that need maintenance or sometimes tools that simply need to be tracked. Many climbers keep a log book in the office (not with the kit), recording their equipment inspections. Keeping track of other equipment can be a real challenge. However, with PINE Technology, there is now a solution. All of the data required can be accessed via a tag on the item as well as in the office, with updates accessible in real time.
All of this is now possible using Near Field Communication (NFC). Recent developments in technology and the widespread use of smartphones and tablets has made the application of this communication tool available to a wider audience.
How does it work? An NFCenabled tag on the item sends a message to the smartphone or tablet. Information can be accessed and data entered by tapping the tag with the phone or tablet. All data can also be accessed centrally and via the phone or tablet.
Tags and Beacons
There are situations where it is not practical to physically tap the item, for example if managing trees on an estate scale, such as in parkland or especially when seeking to interact with the public. In such scenarios, a beacon can be used. These interact with the phone or tablet within a range of up to 100m, enabling trees, shrubs and other features to be monitored from a fixed point.
Tags and beacons can enable tree managers and contractors to manage resources more efficiently. They can also improve interaction with external users such as the public by explaining local features in more detail and describing the rationale for management practices. In places where you are working to increase visitor numbers, such as at a park, beacons can be used to promote seasonal events and particular features within the site. What makes a particular feature special? Information boards are useful but limited to the space available and there is no practical way to update data frequently or in real time. With beacons, information can be updated from the office and made available at each location.
You have control over the data. It is possible to restrict access to certain user groups and the data on each tag is secure, cannot be copied and each tag is unique.
One of the key benefits of working with PINE Technology is the combination of industry experience and practical solutions with the skills of technology partner Tap2Connect. This includes producing reports summarising management information, such as the condition of a population of trees, highlighting where intervention is needed.
Technology partner Tap2Connect was founded by Steve Cooke. He focuses on developing solutions to the challenges we are identifying in arboriculture and the land-based industries, ensuring we have access to the latest technologies. PINE Technology provides tailor-made solutions to the requirements of our clients.
Tags allow access to secure data via your smartphone or tablet and so do not require costly specialist equipment. PINE Technology works with our clients’ existing systems and can provide both bespoke and standard solutions. We also continue to support the client with regular reviews of their ongoing needs to ensure access to the most appropriate and up to date equipment, for the long term.
Mark has run the Consulting Arborist Society since 2009. He also leads his own consultancy practice, Cedarwood Tree Care and recently became technical director at PINE Technology Services. A graduate in amenity horticulture, he has been a tree officer for several Midlands authorities, is a Fellow of the Arboricultural Association and a Cardiff University Expert Witness.