Tree SMART: Bringing Data to Life 

Date 06.10.2023
Category Events
Author LJ Stocks

Earlier in 2023, we heard from our Technical Strategy Manager, Doug Maxted, at our Tree SMART Live event. He explained how numerous data sources can be joined to improve processes and explored new developments. 

No one can deny that data is useful. It underpins everything we do. However, it is only useful if it is useable. It’s no good collecting endless data and hoarding it in the hopes that it will be helpful. This simply creates data silos and uses endless energy in storage. We need to be clever with the data we collect, looking at ways to automate processes and wrap it up within software to ensure it gets to the people who need to use it most. 

Here at KaarbonTech we design solutions to solve the real-life problems our customers encounter. We understand how crucial it is that office-based and field-based staff have the same comprehensive view of data, to ensure there is mutual understanding of requests, decisions and actions. This needs to be clear, understandable and easy to manage, using data efficiently and making it useful. 

Designing a system for trees 

Our Tree SMART solution is designed to manage the asset, rather than simply collect data. The system specifically deals with the complexities of trees, which differ greatly from other highway assets such as gullies, streetlights or signs.  

How does it work? 

The map-based system allows you to select an area, download all the asset information contained in that area in overlays, and view exactly what you want in a single tap. 

The field app is backed up by a browser-based system, and all the asset information is fed back into this browser. Within this you can view asset inspection history and have access to a reporting system, allowing information to be extracted when necessary. This means you have actionable data in your hand, whenever you need it. 

Creating a comprehensive survey 

We survey trees to assess their condition and potential risk to residents and road users. Every survey aims to care for the tree, its surroundings and those that may come into its presence. Surveys can identify trees at risk of fall, and limit or avoid potential damage with remedial measures.  

Tree SMART simplifies this process, using a digital survey record, rather than paper-based risk assessments that must be manually input. Digitally recorded surveys are automatically time and date-stamped, storing information in the same place in a consistent, practical way. 

Adding additional data 

  • LiDAR data can also feed into these surveys, viewable alongside the other data with canopy cover reports, viewed as overlays. 

  • Although it doesn’t impact the trees themselves, leaf fall is caused by trees, and can create drainage issues on roads. With thousands of emergency call outs for flooding created by leaf-blocked gullies, this data can also be added to the surveys, to identify potential problem areas. Road sweepers can then be deployed seasonally to the right places so leaf fall doesn’t become an issue. 

  • Impact zones can be added as a layer to survey data, showing the extent of the impact a tree fall would have to the surrounding area and the exact area it may affect.  

  • Oak Processionary Moth is a potential issue, stripping oak trees of their leaves but also causing rashes and breathing difficulties to humans, if encountered. A simple overlay in the system can highlight affected areas, as well as highlighting susceptible trees. A location-based alert warns surveyors of their presence.  

  • Trees that may have defects but are not your responsibility can be highlighted within the software. There is an obligation to inform the landowner, which can be time consuming, however the system allows the relevant area to be selected, pulling all Land Registry information through and combining it with tree inspection data which can be sent direct to the land owner. 

Bringing data together in this way means that any of these layers and features can be extracted and viewed, ready to take action. 

Efficient spending is #1 

Any local authority will tell you how stretched their budgets are and how crucial it is to spend wisely. Money is their most valuable resource, dictating what can and cannot be achieved and demanding evidence-based requests for spend. Tree SMART helps you understand exactly how much budget will be required to adequately manage the tree asset. Filters, layers and reporting ensure that the information is all at your fingertips, with simple clicks to access the relevant data and compare options. This negates the requirement for multiple spreadsheets to work out costs and saves time – another valuable resource. Invoice validation within the software allows a clear view to approve, highlighting any discrepancies.  

The future of tree surveying and management 

Data is a valuable resource and bringing it to life through intelligent systems and collecting data from multiple sources gives a highly informative picture of the tree asset on your highways. So what’s next…? 

Developments in AI increase at a rapid pace, and this technology could be useful for identifying areas at potential risk – forest fire mitigation could benefit from proactive identification of risk areas. 

AI also provides plant identification, and these applications are commonplace now. This may well have a place within the software in the future. Many local authorities don’t know the full span of species across their network, and this may well help with closing this gap. 

We’ve been working with Kew Gardens to augment our Tree SMART solution, using the data they have on the 1400 species that they have records for. This includes sizes, root spreads, defects and pathogens that may affect each species. We’ve combined our expertise within a Tree Management Research Group, bringing raw data to life to extend our understanding of trees and take their expertise to improve the management of trees on the highways. This will help us develop our software and create steps forward within the Tree SMART solution, continuing to benefit our customers. 

See more about Tree SMART here