Forget driverless cars, drones, and hyperloops. The convergence of tech and trees is the next big thing. From New York City to the USDA (and even your own backyard), “Smart Trees” connected by the Internet of Things (IoT) are gaining ground as Earth Day 2018 arrives.

Earth Day 2018

As you think about Earth Day this year, think about trees first. Trees are a valuable resource. Did you know:

  • Trees can increase property values as much as 20 percent (Management Information Services/ICMA)
  • A mature tree can often have an appraised value of between $1,000 and $10,000 (Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers)
  • The net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
  • One acre of forest absorbs six tons of carbon dioxide and puts out four tons of oxygen, enough to meet the annual needs of 18 people (USDA)
  • The planting of trees means improved water quality, less runoff, and less erosion with an increased recharging of the ground water supply (USDA Forest Service)
  • Trees can be a stimulus to economic development, attracting new business and tourism (The Arbor Day Foundation).

How can we save trees?

Unfortunately, forests around the world are under constant threats both human and natural. In India, tree poaching is destroying rare and very valuable trees (learn more). While in America, urban forest and streetscapes are facing a constant barrage of pollutants, vandalism, and even stress from the literal tons of asphalt and concrete compacting their roots. But there is good news. From urban parks to national forests, the IoT is providing new opportunities to better understand and address these issues.

As a result, sensors are increasingly important to preserving and growing the world’s forested areas. Thanks to the IoT and the increasing efficiency of small sensors, we can now monitor, in real-time, the water needs of urban trees (learn more). And the USDA is connecting tree-filled landscapes arounds the nation with its groundbreaking “Smart Forests” initiative (learn more). But these technologies aren’t just limited to government or big business. Even homeowners like myself can benefit from them. And I just did. How? By installing a WiFi powered rain-sensing timer on the do-it-yourself drip irrigation system I just installed. It quietly watches over 100 new shrubs and ground covers just planted in my front yard. This IoT based technology automates what was going to be a very laborious chore. Plus, it will let me monitor (and control) the entire system from an app on my smartphone.

Technology and trees

So this year think about technology when you think about Earth Day. By combining the creative forces behind the latest innovative technologies with the creativity of nature, we can gain even greater value from trees by keeping them strong, healthy, and secure.

Kenn Dodson, RLA is a registered Landscape Architect with a background in Green Infrastructure. And he just happens to work at Cisco, the leader in Smart City solutions.