Technology has led to smartphones, smart cities and even smart cars, but the great outdoors has remained largely un-teched. A report published Sunday urges National Parks to pick up the pace and adopt Internet of Things devices as soon as possible, with the belief that these internet-connected gadgets could preserve natural landscapes and efficiently manage funds.
While a connected park may draw to mind some sort of Blade Runner-esque bleak future where even the wilderness is riddled with wires, this is far from the case. “Smart Parks: Bringing smart technologies to National Parks” was commissioned by the British Lake District National Park Authority to study how technology could help with conservation efforts and create new opportunities. In the future, it could mean monitors alerting rangers when footpaths grow dangerous, or “smart trash cans” that tell staff when they’re getting full. Emerging fields like cognitive radio could help these devices communicate without leaving a trail of cables everywhere.
“If parks don’t act and install these new technologies they are likely to miss opportunities in many different ways,” Edward Truch, professor from Lancaster University Management School, tells Inverse. “Adoption of the new IoT technologies by key players such as attractions, hospitality, accommodation and transport providers is likely to proceed in unaligned ways using different technical standards and communication protocols. This will render a higher degree of collaboration and data sharing more difficult to achieve, thus missing out on the many benefits that a fully integrated smart park brings. These include new revenue streams from value-adding visitor services, and cost-savings from efficiency gains.”
Watch an explainer produced by the university below:
In many ways, visitors are already using technology to improve parks. GPS-equipped smartphones help visitors work their way through and decide on best routes, with one team of researchers in 2016 using such equipment to draw the optimal route to visit every National Park in the contiguous United States. With the report stating that the number of IoT devices will expand from 4.9 billion in 2015 to a projected 25 billion in 2025, parks can either adopt these new technologies or find themselves left behind as cities adopt data-collecting dump trucks and parking management systems that cut back on pollution.