Bivio is a dual system to support foresters with data acquisition in the forest and data processing in the office. Data is generated by a wearable device and visualised in the desktop application.
The collection of data in the forestry sector requires time-intensive work in the forest. Data is error-prone because it is simply being noted or remembered. Also, the processing of the information which must be forwarded to different stakeholders is complex.
A forester has many tasks but his main job is to maintain the ecological balance in the forest. He decides which trees will be harvested and where new trees will be planted. After the harvest, the felled logs must also be checked, sorted, and sold. The jobs can be described as following:
Status Analysis: Before a forester can mark trees for the harvest he looks on maps and orthophotos of the forestry area to get an idea about the tree population. He is even capable to see pest infestations.
Marking: There are different kinds of trees: harvested trees, future trees which have potential and are meant to stay in the forest for later harvest, and habitat trees which offer a home to different forest species. All of them need to be marked with spray paint so that the forest workers know if the tree can be taken down or is meant to remain in the forest.
Work Order: Once all the trees are marked in the area the forester has to create a work order for the forest workers. He has to mention all danger zones and the allocation of the woodpiles.
Check: After the forest workers have harvested the trees and sorted them on the woodpiles the forester has to check if everything was done correctly or if, for example, other trees have been harmed.
Compiling a List: The forest workers have measured each log after it had been cut down. The forester's task is now to enter every log and its measurements into a device called PSION. The software will then compile a list of all the trees and send it to the forestry office.
Collecting data is time intensive and there is no consistent way of saving the data.
Resulting from the first, the quality of his work gets affected by time pressure.
Having to change between different devices to collect data interrupts the workflow.
Calipers, spray can, axe, PSION. A forester has many devices to carry around.
Existing digital devices are not compatible with the old software.
Slips of the pen
Many mistakes are made when data is only remembered or written down in a rush.
The average forester in Germany is over 40 years old. He tends to be not averse to new technologies but they have to be beneficial in the context of the forest. Too futuristic products would be more likely rejected than unobtrusive systems. Also, forest visitors have a romanticized picture of the forester in their heads which should be maintained. A balance between technology and adaption, especially in terms of the look of the application should be sought.
In addition to the weather conditions, the forest also has a high risk of falling or tripping. Sensitive devices such as touchscreen displays can be damaged quickly. An operation with gloves or dirty fingers must also be ensured. The application must ensure that it can survive rough weather conditions as well as falls.
A forester spends about 50 percent of his working time in the office in front of the computer. Time that is wasted with bureaucratic tasks. Here, added value can be generated by simplifying and automating processes and reducing the permanent time pressure.
Due to the forester's work process, the data acquisition becomes a collection of different data points from different sources, which the forester has to organize afterward. A unified, structured collection of data in one channel should provide the forester with a better overview of his territory and a relief in the workflow.
The biggest interruption in the forester's workflow is the use of items that need to be held in his hand and looked at, taking the attention from the forest and the surroundings. The application must be operable without distraction or prolonged looking; Only this will create added value for the forester.
With this glove, foresters are able to track data automatically and record voice notes that will later be transcripted to the software.
The smart glove consists of an e-ink display, a red LED, and one button on the middle of the index finger. There is also a gyroscope, a GNSS module, and a microphone build in.
The gyroscope in the glove can detect movement and interpret certain patterns. If the forester wants to mark a tree, he simply presses the button on the index finger and the glove will record the following movement. Trees can get different symbols, a harvested tree usually gets a simple, diagonal line. In addition to the gyroscope, the GNSS position will be saved, too. So later the forester is able to allocate the trees on the map.
Voice Recording and Sorting:
To note down warnings and danger zones the forester can hold the button for two seconds and start a voice recording. Software scans the input for certain keywords and sorts them into their corresponding category. For example, a habitat group can take up to half an hour to register with the PSION. With the glove, the forester can simply tell what he sees and the software will go through and sort it by species, age, and feature. If there are a misunderstanding or unclear words the system will give a notification. Every recording can be found in the software application later.
The desktop application opens up with an overview of the full territory that a forester can supervise. In Germany, foresters take care of state-owned forests as well as private forests. Forest owned by the state has precise rules that need to be realised within a ten years span. These rules do not apply to private forests and it is up to the owner to decide how the area is used. For that private owners need to get in touch with the forester and discuss possible types of use.
To choose between private and state-owned forests, the onboarding screen offers two possibilities. State forests are mostly sectioned in smaller departments or tree populations. Private forests, however, do not have this separation usually and it is easier to find the owner by its name. Once typed in, the system gives a preview of the area that the person owns. The area will highlight on the map on the right and can be accessed by clicking.
When the trees are marked and the forester has noted all possible danger zones the data points will be visualised on the map. Trees that will be harvested have been put into a cluster which makes it easier to identify areas where many trees need to be cut down. This will be beneficial later for the forest workers who need to plan the harvest beforehand.
The map view can be changed by choosing layers on the left sidebar. The forester can add or reduce the amount of information shown on the map depending on his needs. Zooming in and out will also affect what is displayed, for example, clusters will either form or spread.
Additional information such as the voice record transcript can be accessed by clicking the right sidebar or directly on the element. The right sidebar opens up whereas the left is minimised to ideally use the screen layout. At the top, the user has the possibility to click through the different categories of speech transcripts and choose from one in the list below. The element clicked will be highlighted on the map.
As mentioned above the system will filter out keywords of voice recordings and sort information accordingly. In the end, the information will be displayed in a table.
Creating a work order is one of the most time-intensive jobs of a forester. With the information gathered by the system, some parts can be automatically filled out. The forester would have to only check if the information is correct and complete the rest.
Forest workers have to plan out in which areas harvester machines can be used and where they need to cut manually. Also, they have to be aware of all possible danger zones in the area which is why the forester can attach different maps to the work order. They will help the forest workers to get an impression of the locality.
Given the complexity of the subject, we conducted interviews with different stakeholders in the forestry sector to get a better understanding of their organisation. In Germany, every federal state has its own system to manage forest affairs. We talked to governmental institutions such as the state office for geoinformation who develops and maintains the database of every forest territory in Baden-Württemberg. Also, we asked two foresters to give us an impression about their everyday work and the problems they encounter.
To quickly develop the first design ideas we conducted a Design Sprint after the principal of Jake Knapp. The sprint allowed us to sort and elaborate solutions that partly built on ideas of the first brainstorm as well as bringing up new functionalities we haven’t considered before.
Forest management is an expert field; To ensure that our products will create added value for our target group it was crucial to keep in touch and test our prototypes with users. Through the tests, we could figure out details that were either missing or false and were able to correct them. We tested different devices and went through several screen designs before we settled on the glove and the UI.
The course of the project has shown that a methodical approach and user-centred design were essential for the project to succeed. In addition to that, we faced the challenge of coordinating a team of four and often preventing discussions from leading to no result. However, we benefited from an open user group that was interested in our questions. Thanks to the large number of interviews with stakeholders we were able to understand the processes of timber trade and develop a product that has the potential to simplify the work process of the target group.