URBAN DATA LAB

Natural Assets: Advancing a 5G Framework for Natural Asset Management

Natural Assets

Think of the natural environment you live in – parks provide a space to socialize and exercise. Trees provide shade and cooling in the summer. There are also effects you may not be conscious of in your day-to-day routine – for instance the air purification provided by trees. Parks and trees are all included under the umbrella of natural assets and provide a suite of services related to climate change mitigation, human health and well-being, and biodiversity. We can see the importance of green spaces, included under the umbrella of natural assets, for mental and physical wellbeing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Historically, governments across Canada struggle to effectively manage their natural assets with traditional technologies and tools. This has been challenging due to the labor-intensive and complex nature of natural asset monitoring.

Problem Statement

Land managers, in particular municipal governments, face significant struggles effectively managing natural assets with current tools and processes. Currently, natural asset management requires a qualified person to go into the field to monitor natural assets. This labor and time intensity makes it too expensive and infeasible to have proper natural asset management. This is where our project comes in. With 5G technology, there is a potential to create a new, low-cost system for monitoring, and hence better managing and utilizing the services of natural assets. We are working with a team from Forest Resources Management and Electrical Engineering to deploy a low-cost tree monitoring sensor network on campus. The natural assets at UBC Vancouver campus make it an ideal location for this project. This includes Pacific Spirit Park, but also trees along Main Mall and grassy areas scattered around campus.

Project Approach

This project looks at integrating natural assets within high-tech environments, like smart cities, to create resilient ecosystems and human developments. To create a framework to better manage and utilize natural assets, this project uses low-latency sensors and remote sensing technology to monitor natural assets and human interactions. The project has been broken down into 4 modules.

Module 1: Monitor natural asset health for natural asset management.

Deploy a low-cost, 5G enabled sensor network to collect real-time data on campus natural assets. This will provide information about key characteristics and general conditions as well as informing responses to environmental variables.

Module 3: Develop a data-driven natural asset management framework.

Draw data linkages between information collected on natural asset condition and usage. This will inform decision making and future design for optimizing the services and benefits provided by natural assets.

Module 2: Monitor human-nature interactions.

Collect real-time data on people who use campus natural assets. This will provide insight on behaviour and movement patterns in relation to asset conditions and characteristics.

Module 4: Develop use cases in natural asset management.

Based on data collection, analyses, and validation, identify future use cases and future users, along with commercial potential of natural-asset-focused 5G technologies.

Project Partner

Team Members

Lorien Nesbitt
PI, Assistant Professor
Department of Forest Resources Management

Susan Day
Co-I, Professor
Department of Forest Resources Management

Edmond Cretu
Co-I, Professor
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

Sophie Nitoslawski PhD Candidate Department of Forest Resources Management

Amy Blood
PhD Student
Department of Forest Resources Management

Angela Rout
Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Forest Resources Management

Ibrahim El-chami
Postdoctoral Fellow
Department of Forest Resources Management + Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering

UDL Team

Mike Kennedy
Co-I, UDL Director, Postdoctoral Fellow
Urban Data Lab + Sauder School of Business

Natasha Mattson
Research Assistant
Urban Data Lab + Department of Forest Resources Management

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