In order to advance decision making in operational planning, it is vital that forestry professionals use the most advanced tools and technologies. The lack of an intuitive and unified visual analytics platform prevents forestry stakeholders from fully exploiting the potential of data-driven decision-making, and is a barrier to effective multi-objective forest planning across large landscapes. To address this challenge, the Faculty joined forces with LamaZoo, Interfor, and FPInnovations to develop TimberOps, an immersive visual analytics platform to improve operational planning and decision making in forest resource management.
To date, the ability to make optimal decisions is constrained primarily by access to timely, accurate, contextual information that can be quickly accessed and easily understood. The development of a digital twin of the forest represents a modern solution towards aligning the varying interests for how forest landscapes are planned, utilized, and managed. TimberOps enables users to integrate diverse forestry datasets in a vast, virtual landscape, and delivers immersive analytics experiences through the state-of-the-art Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR/AR) Head-Mounted Displays (HMDs).
TimberOps is a high-fidelity visual analytics platform that represents forestry datasets with detailed landscape and individual tree renderings, supporting the latest augmented and virtual reality (AR/VR) displays. It can be used to substitute a significant portion of expensive in-person field trips. It is designed to integrate all available datasets into one intuitive common operating picture. This provides a centralized access point and a toolset with consistent interfaces for forestry analysts and stakeholders to examine and discuss forest management plans across various objectives.
Forest management today faces many diverse challenges and interests requiring a common operating picture for optimal management. Rapidly changing historical timber supplies – particularly in the context of natural disturbances such as fire infestation – highlights the need for better closed-loop, supply-chain-centric, decision-making tools. Forest resources in BC are largely tied to publicly-owned lands requiring public consultation and engagement. Additionally, competing interests for resource extraction, animal habitat, conservation, and recreation position the varying end-use objectives of forest resources squarely under the lens of rigorous scrutiny.
The TimberOps VR forest and lands planning tool can play facilitation. It provides an objective, visual, conversational tool – bridging the varying, though often complementary, forest management interests shared between stakeholders, the public and government policy. By providing a common operating picture that unifies all available data, visualization, and analytical tools in a VR-enabled virtual environment, TimberOps maximizes the use of available data to support collaborative decision-making, which can be a powerful tool in stakeholder engagement. Furthermore, the tool aims at reducing costs and increasing productivity by minimizing reliance on field trips for forest management, as well as removing domain silos.
Projects to date include the development of a 500 ha proof of concept on Vancouver Island using Interfor’s data. It was demonstrated in the fall of 2018, followed by a second phase of the project that focused on the full integration and compatibility of the tool with GIS and RoadEng. Subsequently, the UBC Malcom Knapp Research Forest in Maple Ridge (5,000 ha) was also integrated into the platform to test, scale-up, and to validate TimberOps operational planning capabilities that can be used for teaching, research and stakeholder engagement. Future developments are focusing on the scalability of the tool, aimed at providing a fluid visualization and analytics experience for 300,000 ha when the software tool reaches commercialization. Further developments in the classroom will focus on incorporating TimberOps in the forest operations curriculum to improve the student experience in operational planning.
For more information, contact:
Dr Li Ji
Research Lead at LlamaZOO
Provincial Lead for FPInnovations Vancouver