Wednesday, December 6, 2023
HomeBusiness InnovationArtificial Intelligence Can Be Used To Monitor Maine's Forests

Artificial Intelligence Can Be Used To Monitor Maine’s Forests

Key Highlights

  • Monitoring forest ecosystems is complicated as the current combination of software and collection systems needs a lot of energy.
  • Wise-Net has developed a new method using artificial intelligence and machine learning to measure and monitor Maine’s forests.

Monitoring and measuring forest ecosystems is a complex task since an existing combination of softwares, computing environments, and collection systems requires increasing energy to power.

The University of Maine’s Wireless Sensor Networks (WiSe-Net) laboratory has developed a new method of using AI and ML to make monitoring soil moisture more energy efficient and cost-efficient. It could be used to make measuring more efficient across Maine’s forest ecosystems and beyond.

Soil moisture is an essential variable in forested and agricultural ecosystems, especially under the latest drought conditions of past Maine summers. Despite the sturdy soil moisture monitoring networks and large, freely available databases, the cost of commercial soil moisture sensors and the power they use can be prohibitive for foresters, researchers, farmers and others tracking the health of the land.

Along with researchers at the University of New Hampshire and the University of Vermont, UMaine’s WiSe-Net developed a wireless sensor network that uses artificial intelligence to understand how to be more power efficient in monitoring soil moisture and processing the information.

Ali Abedi, a principal investigator of the recent study and professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Maine, says that AI can learn from the environment, forecast the wireless link quality and incoming solar energy to efficiently use limited energy and make a strong low cost network run longer and more reliably.

The software learns how to make the best use of available network resources over time, which helps produce power-efficient systems at a lower cost for large-scale monitoring compared to the existing industry standards.

WiSe-Net also partnered with Aaron Weiskittel, director of the Center for Research on Sustainable Forests, to ensure that all software and hardware research is informed by the science and tailored to the research needs.

Weiskittel says that soil moisture is a primary driver of tree growth, but it changes rapidly daily and seasonally. They could not monitor effectively at scale. Historically, they used expensive sensors that collected at fixed intervals every minute but were not very reliable. A cheaper and more robust sensor with wireless capabilities like this opens the door for future applications for researchers and practitioners in the same way.

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