IoT: the Internet of Trees– How Microchip Technology Will Cut Down Deforestation and Beyond

Deforestation and illegal logging have plagued the Amazon for decades. Through policy and international pressure, Amazonian countries, most notably Brazil, have cracked down on illegal logging operations and worked to decrease the amount of deforestation occurring every year. The practice has been generally successful, resulting in an 84% decrease in deforested area from 2004 to 2012. And now, new ways of enforcing and encouraging sustainable forestry are coming into play. One of these methods is with microchips.

Microchipping has been used for a number of years both in pets and, now, in people for both identification purposes, and practical application to include unlocking doors and turning lights on and off. Adopting the identification tags method and applying it to trees will enable lumber certification methods to ensure wood product is coming from a certified and genuine source, thus cutting down on the profitability of illegal logging. Initial cost is a concern, however. Each individual chip can cost $25 or more, with each scanner for the chips costing upwards of $250 per unit, and more for more advanced models. Despite this, the long term benefit of the investment is indisputable.

Illegal logging is a worldwide problem, and since the wood cutting industry has reached over $350 billion in profits, and doubled in value, illegal logging operations are on the rise. 50% of logging imports to China and India alone are believed to be from illegal sources, and tropical wood from the Amazon is one of the most popular imports. Proving the concept of microchipping trees for certification purposes to be successful in the largest and most devastated forest in the world will ensure that the technique can be applied elsewhere and foster a more sustainable logging industry, while simultaneously continuing to cut down on unnecessary deforestation. In fact, it is already being embraced by organizations in countries like Sweden and Turkey to maintain inventory and more efficiently track their products.

Microchipped trees may also go beyond just identification purposes by providing aid in forest management by monitoring plant vital signs. The method can also be applied in a more urban setting to foster plant life in the concrete jungle. As the integrated circuit gets smaller and chips get more advanced, the chips in trees could serve a multipurpose role of not just identifying trees, but also as bridges for radio/WiFi signals to bolster and expand communication networks. Studies have shown that the trees are perfectly capable of healing the implantation wound and growing with the chips with no damage done to its structure or health. Microchips are a worthwhile investment that will provide nothing short of absolute benefit to the status of the Brazilian Amazon and work as an effective method to combating illegal logging.

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