Is there any system available to monitor the cutting of trees within a forest, and to track logs in transit?
The only radio frequency identification solution specifically developed for the forestry industry of which I am aware is provided by Balance Bourbeau, a Canadian provider of truck scales and weighing systems located in Ville St. Laurent, Quebec. In 2005, the firm started providing a forestry tracking and management system utilizing RFID and GPS technologies. Several logging and sawmill operators in the Quebec area were utilizing the company's Virtual Authorization for Transportation (Virtual AT) system (see Loggers Use Tags to Track Trucks, Timber).
The Virtual AT solution facilitates the loading and weighing of logging trucks, by reducing the need for drivers to step out of their vehicles or fill out paperwork. Instead, an RFID tag installed on the truck cab's dashboard automatically transmits data that the logging company can use to track the truck and its load—and to calculate the number of hours that the driver worked. While a crane (known as a loader) lays logs onto a truck in the forest, a computer and an RFID reader on the loader write data onto the vehicle's 915 MHz active tag. This data includes the driver's name and license number, the loading location (determined by a GPS device onboard the loader), and the species of tree that was cut. The driver then proceeds to the forestry company's scale, at a sawmill that can be located as much as 160 miles from the forest in which the timber was felled.
When the truck drives onto the scale, an RFID interrogator with a read range of up to 300 feet retrieves the vehicle's data and writes its weight and time of day to the RFID tag. The driver need not come to a full stop. He or she can then take the truck to a site where a loader removes the logs. Once empty, the vehicle is moved through another scale, where its tare (unloaded) weight is written to the tag. Data on the tag can then be erased, except for details regarding the truck itself, after which the vehicle can return to the forest for another load.
There have been several government-funded research projects using RFID to track logs. Indisputable Key—a three-year, European Commission-funded research project completed in 2010—involved businesses and researchers in Estonia, Finland, France, Norway and Sweden. The project included a number of studies that employed RFID to bring visibility to the forestry supply chain (see Governments Influence RFID Adoption).
Overall, Indisputable Key found that individually identifying felled logs with ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID transponders and tracking them through the supply chain leads to environmental and economic benefits. RFID can reduce waste, by improving the use of raw materials and the efficiency of timber-production processes. And information about the wood can be gathered and made available throughout the supply chain. Tieto, a Finnish IT service provider, developed traceability solutions for Indisputable Key's pilots. They might be a good company to contact.
The Fraunhofer Institute for Factory Operation and Automation IFF, located in Magdeburg, Germany, undertook a government-funded project that began in 2008 and continued through February 2011, to track shipments of logs for the production of pulp, paper and fiberboard (see RFID in the Forest). The pilot employed RFID transponders made of paper and lignin (a part of plant cells) that can be processed along with wood into pulp, without contaminating the final product. That saves the time and money it would otherwise take to extract tags composed of plastic or metal. By tagging every 10 or 20 logs within a shipment, supply chain partners could monitor the location and timing of timber supplies and shipments, and invoicing processes could be automated and expedited.
If any of our readers are aware of any other RFID solutions made specifically for the forestry industry, please post information about them below.
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal
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