‘Internet of Trees’ networking solution helps prevent spread of forest fires

18 January 2022

Avnet Silica announces details of cooperation for ‘Internet of Trees’ networking solution to help prevent spread of forest fires
Avnet Silica announces details of cooperation for ‘Internet of Trees’ networking solution to help prevent spread of forest fires

Avnet Silica, the European semiconductor specialist division of electronic components distributor, Avnet, has announced details of its collaborative project with a Berlin-based IoT start-up, a system based on LoRaWAN networking technology that can help alert local authorities to wildfires.

Avnet Silica, an Avnet company, has announced details of its work with an innovative start-up company that is using advanced IoT networking to help prevent the spread of forest fires across the world. Given the potential size of a forest, plus the lack of infrastructure within them, the challenge is enormous to sense the earliest stages of a wildfire.

Dryad is a Berlin-based company that has addressed the issue by developing advanced sensing nodes and highly distributed networking technology designed for the natural world. Designed to overcome constraints such as the lack of power and connectivity in forests, its Silvanet solution consists of three pieces of hardware; proprietary RF networking that extends the reach of the low-power and low-data-rate LoRaWAN communications protocol; and a cloud analytics platform.

The first element is the solar-powered Silvanet Wildfire Sensor node, which measures standard environmental conditions, including concentrations of various gases. It uses a low-power microcontroller that integrates LoRaWAN support and machine-learning processing. These devices connect to solar-powered Silvanet Mesh Gateways. Importantly, Dryad has extended the typical LoRaWAN network via proprietary technology to link the gateways and form a mesh of star networks, which together can reach deep into a forest.

These two elements create an ‘Internet of Trees’ that reaches the internet via the Silvanet Border Gateway, which can be placed at the edge of forest and acts as a LoRa gateway and implements 4G or 2G/GPRS connectivity, if necessary. The final element is the Silvanet Cloud Platform, which provides a complete solution for wildfire detection and monitoring. The platform can group sensor devices and gateways either by geographical area or by characteristics.

The forest environment presents an enormous challenge for implementation. For example, the system must use supercapacitors to power the sensors, rather than using potentially toxic and flammable rechargeable batteries. And, in addition to the hardware, which must be produced at the lowest possible cost to enable wide deployment, while also being rugged enough to ensure long operating lifetimes. Also necessary is firmware development for energy-constrained data analytics, over-the-air update support, IoT security and LoRaWAN standards compliance. All this must be achieved with equipment working at low power with solar panels that are often in shade. Additionally, RF communications is a challenge as every tree is an obstruction that absorbs radio waves.

Dryad worked closely with Avnet Silica to explore its options for components that can meet these tough challenges. “Avnet Silica has been a close ally in the development of the Silvanet solution,” said Carsten Brinkschulte, CEO of Dryad. “They have helped us in the selection of the right ultra-low power components, such as the sensor node MCU that integrates LoRa radio, but also has enough processing capability to analyse sensor data with enough sophistication to detect wildfires early. Additionally, Avnet has helped us to understand supply constraints for various parts, caused by supply-chain issues ranging from the pandemic through to factory fires, ensuring that we chose components available in enough volume to the rollout of sensors and gateways in significant volume.

When you go to market and roll out your network with quantities rising, it becomes absolutely crucial to have all the microcontrollers and other parts delivered on time,” said Ingo Seehagen, Senior Field Application Engineer at Avnet Silica. “We are now working with Dryad looking at potential optimisations of the designs, featuring even lower-power devices and lower costs.”

Dryad also believes that wildfire sensing is just the first application of its innovative IoT technology. Once a Silvanet infrastructure is in place, it could monitor other aspects of forestry, such as soil moisture, tree growth, sap flow and even illegal logging, as well as enabling air- and water-quality monitoring over large areas.

About Avnet Silica

Avnet Silica is the European semiconductor specialist division of Avnet, one of the leading global technology distributors, and acts as the smart connection between customers and suppliers. The distributor simplifies complexity by providing creative solutions, technology and logistics support. Avnet Silica is a partner of leading semiconductor manufacturers and innovative solution providers over many years. With a team of more than 200 application engineers and technical specialists, Avnet Silica supports projects all the way from the idea to the concept to production. Avnet Silica is a regional business unit of Avnet, with European headquarters in Belgium. For more information, visit: www.avnet-silica.com

About Avnet

As a leading global technology distributor and solutions provider, Avnet has served customers’ evolving needs for an entire century. We support customers at each stage of a product’s lifecycle, from idea to design and from prototype to production. Our unique position at the centre of the technology value chain enables us to accelerate the design and supply stages of product development so customers can realise revenue faster. Decade after decade, Avnet helps its customers and suppliers around the world realise the transformative possibilities of technology. Learn more about Avnet at: www.avnet.com

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