An example of the value of real-time data capture is seen in the mechanised harvesting cut-to-length (CTL) system, evolving in Scandinavia. Traditionally, tree felling and log manufacture are carried out by an operator with a chainsaw; tree trunks are extracted with wheeled skidders or cable systems to the roadside, and then sawn, in situ, into logs. Trunks are connected to cable systems by operators, navigating debris and potential runaway trunks; a manual, dangerous job. Decisions on what log grades to make from each tree trunk are made by the chainsaw operators, guided by a few basic log specifications and prices. There is little automation.
New CTL technology is fully mechanised with a harvester that fells trees and makes logs in one process, paired with a forwarder that moves these logs roadside. The system relies on digital data: cutting instructions are relayed in real-time to the harvesters, where onboard computers optimise the mix of log grades made from each tree, using sensors mounted on the harvester to measure trunk shape and quality. Production data, together with data on machine productivity, and other performance indicators such as fuel efficiency, can be visualised in real-time.
This level of automation and digitalisation increases operational safety while speeding up precision felling and productivity. It gives greater management control, an optimised supply chain, fast value recovery and planning for the next crop. Data on grade outturn from a specific site can inform decisions on what tree species to plant for the next crop, what fertiliser regimen to employ, and at what age to best harvest a crop. Effectively, optimised decision-making via advanced analytics and insight.
The role of LEO satellites in bridging the gaps
Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite networks benefit from lower latency (because of their relative proximity to Earth), and can provide more reliable coverage if there are line-of-sight challenges, or the operation is mobile.
Iridium utilises a mesh of LEO satellites able to communicate with one another, passing data from one satellite to another, until the final destination is reached. Antennas communicating with the mesh network don’t need to be ‘pointed’ towards a single satellite, as data can be picked up by any satellite within the constellation and passed through the network, to the ground station.
This makes this network ideal for mobile IoT applications, and perfect for heavy machinery, or operations that shift in location, such as transitory logger camps. Iridium Certus 100 service can provide ubiquitous connectivity in very remote, forest areas.
The RockREMOTE Rugged provides a fertile opportunity for trialling the benefits of satellite connectivity in a forestry setting. It’s aluminium cased, and built to withstand the roughest of environments. Fixed to a remote asset, like a Forester or Harvester, the device enables satellite data transfer of predictive and preventative maintenance analytics, for example.
Customers with small to moderate-sized Industrial IoT data requirements can utilise Iridium’s IMT message-based service for cost-effective data transfer. For more data-heavy applications and real-time monitoring, the device connects TCP/IP-related data, via the Iridium Certus 100 Airtime service. Certus 100 enables data transfer of up to 200 MB per month with speeds of 22 Kbps up and 88 Kbps down.