Brussels has been home for about six months now. We live to the south of city, near a large park called the Bois de la Cambre. If you’re a Londoner, think Richmond, if you’re in New York it’s like Central - a bit more rolling but with the same mix of woodland, green space and mazy paths.
Bois de la Cambre is also home to the tree that tweets. The messages come from an ancient beech tree that has been fitted with a series of instruments that measure air quality, sunlight, wind speed and rainfall. Depending on the data, the account sends regular updates to its 2,700 followers based on one of several thousand pre-recorded messages. It also has its facebook page as you’d expect, with almost 5,000 friends.
There’s a serious side to this of course. Apart from the eco-friendly message (the tree is sponsored by Dutch science magazine Eos), it’s a timely reminder of the rise of the internet of things: networks that connect millions of objects, each capturing and sending data in real time for measurement and analysis.
Meteorology and the environment and activities that already benefit from this approach. But as cost of hardware and bandwidth plummets, these networks are reaching out to other sectors including agriculture. Here’s an article from the iSoft Ideaworks news page about U.S. farmers using sensors to measure the quality of cotton bales. By identifying common factors that connect healthy bales, they can apply these conditions to future harvests, potentially increasing yields and revenues.
There’s an important urban angle here too. You’ve probably heard of smart cities: urban areas where near real-time data about everything from energy consumption to public transport can be analysed or even used to automatically trigger a system response. Take a look at the video below to find out more.