Monitoring the rainforest: pluses and minuses

Rodney Gedda of ComputerWorld in Australia brings news of rainforest monitoring:

The CSIRO will install some 200 solar-powered, sensor network nodes over the next two years to helping rehabilitate rainforest in the Springbrook World Heritage precinct in south-east Queensland, the research group announced today…

They can measure biodiversity indicators, like bird and frog calls, and physical characteristics like leaf wetness, soil moisture and temperature.

Since May 2008 a network of 10 wireless sensor nodes has been sampling physical parameters, including soil moisture and the amount of available light inside the forest, every five minutes…

CSIRO’s Sensor Network Technologies research director, Dr Michael Bruenig, said the Springbrook project demonstrates that real-time data can be streamed back from open and covered rainforest using a low-bandwidth, wireless sensor network.

From an environmental perspective, this is absolutely wonderful; let’s get these deployed ASAP. From a political perspective, it makes clear that the day is rapidly approaching when there will be no place to go to talk about forbidden matters. Australia is a democratic nation, but what does this mean for less-free countries? (And even good countries can go bad.) Let’s design environmental sensors that provably don’t record, say, human conversations.

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