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Communications Crime Earth IT Technology

In Brazil, Trees To Call For Help If Illegally Felled 130

Posted by timothy
from the do-you-read-me-over dept.
Damien1972 writes "The Brazilian government has begun fixing trees in the Amazon rainforest with a wireless device, known as Invisible Tracck, which will allow trees to contact authorities once they are felled and moved. Here's how it works: Brazilian authorities fix the Invisible Tracck onto a tree. An illegal logger cuts down the tree and puts it onto a truck for removal, unaware that they are carrying a tracking device. Once Invisible Tracck comes within 20 miles (32 kilometers) of a cellular network it will 'wake up' and alert authorities."
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In Brazil, Trees To Call For Help If Illegally Felled

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  • by alphatel (1450715) * on Saturday January 26, 2013 @06:28AM (#42699659)
    Fell Alert! [youtube.com] (0:30)
    • Ripe for plenty of gags...

      Humour aside, this is a good use of technology, and much needed. I've seen what happens when deforestation is left un-policed (it doesn't take long for a developing nation to clear one, given the amount of money that it can generate). Seeing what's left of the 'Amazon of the southern hemisphere' as they call it in Borneo, was very sad. Less than 2% is left, and you can imagine the natural habit that's also gone. Not to mention the global impact on climate. The next 30 years will be

      • Re:Tree phone home (Score:4, Informative)

        by AxeTheMax (1163705) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @09:20AM (#42700223)
        Anyone who calls Borneo the 'Amazon of the southern hemisphere' hasn't got much idea of geography. Both are near the equator, but if anything Borneo is overall slightly further north than the Amazon basin.
      • by xclr8r (658786)
        "Good use of technology" but the question in my mind is how much land are the tearing up mining resources for this device. I'm sure it comes out ahead (hopefully) but it is an interesting aspect to look at how much are we using the earth + environmental impact to save the other parts of earth. There must be some type of battery, what resistance does it have to corrosion? Will it leak any contaminants.. etc etc.
        • I doubt they're taggin every tree. One per 5 acres would be *more* than enough.
          • by Anonymous Coward

            Until you realize all the illegal loggers have to do is carry a micro-cell with them that can fake authorized cell tower access, and then when the device activates, they can triangulate it back to the source, remove the tracking device and continue on with impunity.

            Seems like a good idea, but it'll only catch the stupid criminals and only until they learn better.

      • Seeing what's left of the 'Amazon of the southern hemisphere' as they call it in Borneo, was very sad.

        If you would like to see an extreme representation of different forestry practices, zoom in on Haiti and Dominican Republic. No, that is not a "taken at different times" picture artifact. One half of the island is indeed utterly deforested. Just wow. Haitians should be ashamed.

  • Life Alert Bracelets have unlimited uses !!

  • by ozduo (2043408) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @06:40AM (#42699699)
    so when a tree falls in the forest we will know if it makes a sound.
    • Nice try, but if you've wired it for sound, that's no different from someone actually being there to here it.

    • by DirtyLiar (796951)

      No, it still won't make a sound, it'll make a call.

      This is the Medic Alert equivalent for trees! "Help! I'm felled, and I can't get up!"

  • by Tanuki64 (989726) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @06:44AM (#42699719)

    http://www.wnd.com/2012/12/how-to-for-emp-weapon-stunningly-accessible/ [wnd.com]

    What makes RF weapons so dangerous is their compactness and ability to be powered by hand-carried energy sources. Experts say that their range of intensity is from 200 meters to 1,000 meters, or from some 656 feet to 3,281 feet.

    • by Improv (2467) <pgunn@dachte.org> on Saturday January 26, 2013 @06:53AM (#42699757) Homepage Journal

      Anything that raises the hassle level to untracably do illegal/harmful activity will probably either catch or deter a reasonable chunk of the would-be criminals. We live with knowing that the locks we use in our homes could be picked, and if someone *really* wanted to take the time and the risk or spend the money, they could probably get in in various ways, just like we never achieve 100% safety from other crimes. That doesn't mean our safety measures are worthless though.

      • by Tanuki64 (989726)

        True. But the question is, how expensive is such an EMP device really? How much profit is in an illegally felled tree? The risk of being caught using such a device in a rainforest is probably pretty low. And I suppose felling, transporting and selling trees is nothing some 3rd rate would be criminal can easily do. It is a business, which probably has enough money and manpower to pull something like that trough. If there isn't even a cheaper methods to get around the tracking devices.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          I would imagine a device disrupting cellular communications would somehow attract some attention, especially if the authorities were on the lookout for such a thing.

        • by TapeCutter (624760) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @08:07AM (#42699913) Journal
          Illegal timber is big business, there are huge profits and people are prepared to get violent about it. A single hardwood tree can be worth tens of thousands of dollars, particularly fine furniture species. I imagine they would attach these things to the most valuable trees. There are other schemes to track where legal logs come from but they require a lot of manpower to police since each log needs to be checked to find unregistered logs. This idea certainly won't catch everyone but as you say these illegal loggers are a businesses with heavy equipment, a tree that calls home will expose the entire company behind the operation.

          BTW: How would one use an EMP without also frying the electronics in the trucks and bulldozers?
          • by Tanuki64 (989726)

            BTW: How would one use an EMP without also frying the electronics in the trucks and bulldozers?

            Setup EMP charge. Bulldozers wait outside 'blast range'. Clean area. Move bulldozers in. Profit.

            Of course everything depends on how feasible such an EMP device really is. Probably some sort of cell phone jammer would be totally sufficient.

            • by maxwell demon (590494) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @08:34AM (#42700007) Journal

              Or maybe just make your own cellular signal near where you want to cut the tree (it's not as if anyone else in the middle of the rain forest will notice), and look for the signal of the device trying to phone home in order to find and remove it. Bonus: It even helps with finding the valuable trees, because those will be the ones equipped with the device.

            • by maeka (518272) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @10:18AM (#42700503) Journal

              Setup EMP charge. Bulldozers wait outside 'blast range'. Clean area. Move bulldozers in. Profit.

              This isn't an attempt to stop industrial-scale illegal logging. There are much easier ways to track and trace activity on that scale.

              This is an attempt to stop "sustinance" logging. Literally poor individuals poaching timber.

              • by robot5x (1035276) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @03:12PM (#42702677)
                Precisely! I'm personally much more interested in 'legal' logging - that is, those big businesses who get government permits and official sanction to deforest at will, and make shit loads of money in the process. None of this would fall under the purview of such a scheme, since it is 'legal', but almost certainly more destructive on a regional or global scale.

                Would be interested in seeing some figures on estimated volumes of 'illegal' logging versus officially sanctioned 'legal' logging. Anyone?
                • The big difference is actually between clearing and logging as in Forestry. If the logging is part of a managed forest and the forest will regrow after a cut which is correct for the type of forest, then it is vastly different from clearing for slash and burn agriculture or development into a new land use. The managed forest will actually be a carbon SINK as the new trees regrow and at least some of the carbon from the harvested trees will be locked up as timber products.
                • by dywolf (2673597)

                  Because loggers are greedy SOBs with absolutely zero business acumen and only want to cut everything now for a quick buck, not make many times more revenue and garuntee profitability for years to come by only cutting certain trees, and maintaining a healthy forest to keep themselves in business for years and years to come. No sir, neither they nor the many forestry departments charged with overseeing logging ever think like that. They know nothing about running a business and just want to kill some trees.

                  Se

            • by Sique (173459)
              As soon as the devices don't report home anymore, someone will go look for them. So EMP is just the very loud sound of "Here I am going to start illegal logging".
              If you don't want to notice anyone and still cut down trees, don't tamper with the signal!
              • by Immerman (2627577)

                No - unless you're using satellite communications (and they specifically say they're not) the trees will be well outside the range of any communication network unless/until they've been logged and brought into civilization. There's no way to send an "all's well" signal.

          • by afxgrin (208686)

            The whole device is kind of ridiculous to begin with, you operate an illegal radio jammer off your truck and after taking the tree down actively look for the tracking device. If a tree is worth tens of thousands then obviously its worth the time to fish it out.

            • by Jeremi (14640)

              The whole device is kind of ridiculous to begin with, you operate an illegal radio jammer off your truck and after taking the tree down actively look for the tracking device. If a tree is worth tens of thousands then obviously its worth the time to fish it out.

              Of course, given cheap enough technology the authorities could keep making the game more difficult -- hide multiple transmitters on each tree, and have each transmitter only activate at random intervals. The cost of verifying that a tree is "clean" would rise proportionally, hopefully to the point where it was no longer worth the poacher's time to deal with it.

              Of course that would likely get pretty expensive, and we'd end up with forests full of electronics, which probably isn't what we want either...

            • by Khyber (864651)

              "you operate an illegal radio jammer off your truck "

              And the sudden loss of signal would be a dead fucking giveaway.

              I've done this sort of work for local authorities. The only way to bypass this is with a stronger signal, and with that, I can track your ass.

              Try again when you pass basic radio operations and get a HAM license.

              • by afxgrin (208686)

                Cops in Canada can't even stop a stolen pick up with OnStar from getting disassembled, I have greater doubts for them to track tree poachers in Brazil when they can't keep up with the crime in Rio.

              • Not that I'm encouraging this, but a smarter way around it would be to turn on your own micro cellular tower on the truck and then when the units wake up, you can track them and remove them. There is no ongoing signal to cut until the tree is in range of a cellular tower...
        • Remember this is a rain forest. You would need quite a lot of energy as the water absorbs the EMP and a big tree will act as grounded antenna

          http://www.set2survive.com/EMP_survivors_notebook_1.html

          External antennas will also absorb EMP energy and the larger
          the antenna the more it will absorb. Any large metal structure will collect or absorb EMP energy; if it is
          grounded such as a water tower might be, then the energy will dissipate into the earth

      • by nten (709128)

        They won't use an EMP or anything, they will just buy and install a GPS jammer on their trucks. The Tracck will call home but it will have no idea where it is. Truckers already use them in various parts of the world to bypass rules about how many miles they can drive in a day. This came to /. attention some time back when driving by airports was causing airliners to make hands on landings rather than automated ones on a regular basis.

      • We live with knowing that the locks we use in our homes could be picked, and if someone *really* wanted to take the time and the risk or spend the money, they could probably get in in various ways, just like we never achieve 100% safety from other crimes. That doesn't mean our safety measures are worthless though.

        Well said. Often when there is a story about some security solution in /. someone comes up with a method to work around it. However that does not automatically mean that the invention is useless! It might still be a nice addition to the pack of tools.

    • by Lehk228 (705449)
      1) wingnut daily, really?

      2) if true, setting up a few EMP detectors would provide real time info on where illegal loggers are operating
      • by Tanuki64 (989726)

        1) wingnut daily, really?

        Just one result, which popped up when I googled for 'EMP device'. I heard more than once, that it isn't too difficult to build a small one. Might be a legend or not. If my multi million (billion?) business would depend on it, I'd seriously research it.

        2) if true, setting up a few EMP detectors would provide real time info on where illegal loggers are operating

        So now it is tracking devices AND EMP detectors? Somewhere deep inside the Brazilian rainforest? What possibly could go

        • by Lehk228 (705449)
          EMP detectors could be very sparse, the power level required to destroy devices vs the power level required to be detected by a tuned antenna. you could probably get away with placing three or four detectors in the whole country.
          • by Tanuki64 (989726)

            And if you had three or four detectors in the whole country, how fast could you pinpoint the location of the EMP and react to it? The devices are added to track the felled trees on the transporting truck. So there is no real pressure to react fast. When you detect an EMP you have to be there before the truck and the tree is gone. I am really not convinced of this solution.

            • by Lehk228 (705449)
              intensity comparison should locate the source right away, and if someone is setting off EMP bombs it's fair to respond with helicopters and missiles
    • by nickol (208154)

      Why use EMP ? Aluminium foil will do the job.

    • From your link:

      For $32,000, a would-be lone wolf or terrorist group can get the “Electromagnetic EMP Blaster Gun, Gen II,” capable of “shutting down a computer at a distance of 15 meters,” or almost 50 feet, and can “ignite highly explosive fuels in case of proximity or contact.”

      Do you have any idea of the size of things on a rain florest? Even that 1000 meters maximum radius (for no known price) is ridicuslously small. And those numbers don't take into consideration the

      • by Immerman (2627577)

        Chop trees, stack. Before transporting stack into cellular range hit it with a tightly-focused EMP blast. If you can focus it tightly enough you could likely even blast them while on the truck.

        Of course it might be cheaper and easier to just set up your own isolated cellular "tower" to provoke any transmitters and simply bore them out. Then again all of that is outside the budget of the army of low income tree poachers, so it could still be valuable. Then again if you're making a living selling illegal l

    • by Rakhar (2731433)
      "Once Invisible Tracck comes within 20 miles (32 kilometers) of a cellular network it will 'wake up' and alert authorities." There is no reason for fancy EMPs or trying to trace the devices themselves... This doesn't do ANYTHING while out in the forest. It activates when it comes within range of a network. You could knock down every tree in the forest and this would do nothing until you actually move the lumber. The simplest solution would be to run a metal detector over each tree as it's loaded for mov
  • by Pinky's Brain (1158667) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @06:52AM (#42699755)

    Why do they need to be recharged in a year? Simply checking orientation with a microcontroller in deep sleep the rest of the time shouldn't take that much power.

    • by TubeSteak (669689)

      Why do they need to be recharged in a year?

      Your worst case scenarios for a battery are:
      really high temperatures
      really low temperatures
      cycling between really high and really low temperatures.

      The Amazon rainforest happens to be one of those three worst case scenarios.

  • by Required Snark (1702878) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @07:10AM (#42699795)
    So many bad jokes in my head. They are clogging my brain so much I can't get them out...
  • Brilliant (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RCC42 (1457439) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @07:32AM (#42699849)

    Elegant solution to a complex and difficult situation, made possible by technological advance. This is progress (and what slashdot is all about)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    elliot....

  • by jcr (53032) <jcr.mac@com> on Saturday January 26, 2013 @08:03AM (#42699901) Journal

    ...and gets his hundred bucks to ignore it.

    -jcr

    • ...and gets his hundred bucks to ignore it.

      Which is why property ownership is the only way the stated goals can actually be achieved. Allow a private owner to own n acres of rain forest, have him hire security to protect the resource, and then the economics becomes that of whether the bribe is worth losing the contract. The security company can be measured with success metrics, which the constable never will be. It's working for the elephants in Africa.

      • by Jeremi (14640)

        Allow a private owner to own n acres of rain forest, have him hire security to protect the resource, and then the economics becomes that of whether the bribe is worth losing the contract.

        So the private owner will get money for 'protecting' the trees, as well as money for cutting them down and selling them. Win/win!

        Seriously, who is supplying the money that is to motivate the private owner to protect the trees, and can they afford to keep doing that indefinitely, even as the amount of money the owner could get from logging them rises?

        • So the private owner will get money for 'protecting' the trees, as well as money for cutting them down and selling them. Win/win!

          Right, they're his property so he can do with the trees as he pleases, within the bounds of the land grant. Clearcutting the forest wipes out his asset so he doesn't do that. If somebody else tries to poach his trees, he defends them. Again, this model has been proven to work for elephant conservation.

          Seriously, who is supplying the money that is to motivate the private owner t

      • by Genda (560240)

        Why do you guys keep applying your economic religion to these problems when time and time again they just make things worse.... The root of the problem in the Amazon is precisely large property owners doing as they please with impunity, and laying claim to huge tracks of land they don't own. They hire mercenaries to enforce their will, bribe the local police and anyone who tries to stop them ends up getting shot, this includes local native populations who have been displaced, environmentalists, rangers and

    • Or they just use some sort of EM device tracker to find the bugs and remove them.

      Perhaps they should use satellite images to locate these fellers. When the images between today and yesterday are significantly different in an area, you know that something is going on, and you might want to have a look there. This way, you force fellers to be quick and to operate in larger areas, which may make their business unprofitable, or at least less attractive.

  • The tree has already been cut down. All they can do is arrest the guy who is transporting the tree (low down in the business probably). All the bosses of the illegal tree fellers need to to is restructure their business a little, or probably buy a metal detector.
    • by Bucc5062 (856482)

      Clearly you have not watched practically every cop/law TV show ever made. Good guys set up scheme to catch small fry goombas. After intense interrogation where said goomba seems to have either waived rights or just is stupid they get he or she to flip on a big guy. Good guys then set up sting using goomba to lead them to big fish. After a quick gun battle or other dramatic scene big fish is caught, end of show...or is it. Just as they take Big Fish away he or she says "I can give your even Bigger Fish

      • by g0bshiTe (596213)
        Where were you?

        Apparently you were busy watching a crap network. You mentioned TNT yourself.
      • by PPH (736903)

        Clearly you have not watched practically every cop/law TV show ever made.

        Clearly, you have been watching to much TV based on (a misinterpretation of) US law enforcement. What happens when the Big Guy has the ethics of the Zetas? 20 years in prison for a stinkin' tree is nothing compared to what they'll do to you if you talk.

        And its not much better in the USA (of course, your intestines don't end up hanging out). But corporations don't go to prison. They live forever. And they never forget.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      then the middleman has to get the chainsaw out.

      and how likely is that?

      the problem is that they have to ramp up the punishment for the little guy.

      fines and arrest haven't worked.

      shoot them dead, summary justice.

      if that doesn't work, throw the families (profiting from the crime) out of their homes.

      if that doesn't work, then don't let logs get sold.

    • by mspohr (589790)

      Usually the "business model change" involves bribing politicians and the police.

  • by xmark (177899) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @08:29AM (#42699985)

    well, it's better than "First Post!"

  • Logging trucks in the rain forest will now be equipped with cell phone jammers.
  • Based on the weakness of the signal strength and the low cost of GPS jamming equipment (>$69 for something that actually works) how secure is this solution? Beyond that would there be significant electronic signature to detect such devices considering the lack of background interference? Is there such thing as a long distance metal detector? Not knocking progress, just interested.
  • Imagine what would happen if a precocious ten year old with enough skills to hack together a protocol droid out of junkyard parts or capable of building a pod racer decides to build a scanner to locate the invisible scanner hidden inside a living organism... It could happen? Right?
  • ... trees illegally fell you?

  • Apparently the people proposing this sort of thing lack the imagination to understand how many trees are in the forest.

    Even if they only tagged a few trees like this figuring to seed the forest with trackers there is still the problem that this is easily hacked against. Anyone who's spending the money to cut illegal trees and haul them away (very expensive) will simply hire a good hacker to hack the trackers before the loggers hack the trees out.

    • You're completely correct. There currently are too many trees for this to work. We'll just wait until a sufficient number of trees are illegally harvested before we put the plan into effect!
      • Re:Numbers (Score:4, Insightful)

        by volmtech (769154) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @10:41AM (#42700613)
        Brazil has to make up its mind, are the trees a natural resource, or national treasure? Trees are not immortal, they get old and die. Controlled harvesting can support the population and the forest. It's over two million square miles, does all of it have to remain pristine?
        • by Jeremi (14640)

          It's over two million square miles, does all of it have to remain pristine?

          It's not an all-or-nothing question, but rather how much needs to remain pristine, and which areas in particular are the ones whose health are vital to the ecosystem?

          I don't think anyone has argued that the entire Amazon can be or will be preserved indefinitely. But presumably the areas marked as off-limits to logging are so marked because they are the ones that are important to preserve, and it is those areas in particular where illegal logging needs to be stopped.

    • by qwijibo (101731)

      This seems like a technical solution to a non-technical problem. Why not just pay people to hunt these guys down? Set high fines for illegal logging and use some of that money to pay rewards. That would provide small rewards to people who turn in the sustenance level loggers, and big rewards for large operations. A few reports of people getting $50k for reporting a big logging operation would create a lot of interest in stopping these people. Statistically, which approach is more likely to generate use

  • by PPH (736903)

    There is unrest in the forest,
    There is trouble with the trees,
    For the maples want more sunlight
    And the oaks ignore their pleas.

    -- Rush

  • by Stormy Dragon (800799) on Saturday January 26, 2013 @12:11PM (#42701043) Homepage

    If a tree is felled in the forrest, and no one is at the office to hear it, does it still call for help?

  • This has been a big problem for decades. I often thought those governments didn't give a damn. Maybe there is hope for us as a race after all.

  • In the global struggling economy, my first question would be who's paying for this? There's a cost for the devices, someone to install them, fix them, maintain them, plus the cell service. I don't know that this would be very high on my priority list in terms of new projects to get funded. I'm sure it's a great project with good intentions, but is monitoring trees really something we need to be spending money on right now?

    The whole thing is going to be moot soon anyway. Someone will come up with an i

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