Serenity, elbow room and the ability to readily disengage the noisy modern world for a connection with the natural one. That's why so many people enjoy living or vacationing here. So, it's almost ironic that modern technology could be so vital to the sustainability of our way of life in lake country.
Over 50 years ago, Gordon Moore, co-founder of what would become Intel Corporation, predicted that microprocessor capabilities would double every 18 to 24 months. He was right and the concept is now referred to as "Moore's Law." From the first microprocessor to today's most advanced chips, Intel reports performance has improved over 3,500 times while becoming 90,000 times more energy efficient.
This principle has driven a revolution of smart phones and other tech gadgets such as the increasingly popular fitness tracker. These sleek wristband or watch looking devices are used to track the wearer's activity, heart rate and other biometric information. Inside the band are efficient and tiny sensors packaged with low power radios that relay data to an app on the wearer's smart phone which reports that data to the manufacturer. The manufacturer then crunches the data and provides suggestions designed to help the wearer reach their fitness goals or reminds the more desk-bound users to get up and move at regular intervals.
The fitness tracker is a good example of the "Internet of Things" (or "IoT" if you like acronyms). The wristband is a thing that is connected to the internet. When you take millions of smart phones, cars, weather stations and electronic billboards all connected to the internet, you have The Internet of Things.
Back to the point...
In business and in science, it is often said that you cannot manage what you cannot measure. Given the above technology advancements, it is now possible to sense and collect data like never before. The U.S. Forest Service is currently working to connect research sites such as the Marcell Experimental Forest North of Grand Rapids as part of the Smart Forests Network. Fast data from this and similar sites has the potential to improve research capabilities and transform the general public's understanding of complex issues surrounding CO2 and mercury. Modern computing technologies also make it possible to manipulate extreme amounts of data to present information visually and more accurately model "what if" scenarios on a large scale.
Likewise, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), is working to develop real-time methods of water quality monitoring using IoT technology to measure the effects of agriculture and urbanization on watersheds in the future hopes of taking action before issues become disasters.
And in what is being touted as the most ambitious research project of its kind, the Jefferson Project at Lake George in New York is a collaboration between IBM, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the FUND for Lake George. Its mission is to "Establish a strategic partnership that becomes the global model for sustained ecosystem understanding and protection, focusing on Lake George, a world-class natural resource now threatened with permanent degradation from a range of environmental stressors." By combining wireless sensors, modern communications and advanced analytics the team hopes to assess the impacts of issues created by years of pollution and invasive species to determine best methods for combatting further damage or even reversing the trend.
Being closer to nature is still a big reason to live or vacation in northern Minnesota. But a little technology may be necessary to sustain it.