Five years ago, a 38-year-old woman was enjoying an outdoor concert with her family with one of her twin infants in her arms. In the week prior, it had been windy and rainy, but today, the weather was nice, and the concert was crowded. Without warning, a 270-year-old tembusu tree fell on the woman, pinning and ultimately killing her after the other concertgoers couldn’t remove it in time. This tragedy happened in spite of twice-yearly inspections where the tree showed no visual signs of trouble.
It’s exactly this type of incident that Singaporean officials hope to avoid by building an Internet of Trees. The equatorial island nation is home to roughly 5.5 million people, and around 7 million trees — about 6 million of which are tracked by Singapore’s National Parks Board, so that they can be managed remotely with an app. (The Board only tracks trees once they’ve reached a certain size, so we’ll assume that the other million are too young to join the fun just yet.)
While tree-triggered deaths are fairly few and far between, there are plenty of other ‘tree incidents’ that can occur, such as a branch falling, or a tree trunk snapping or uprooting. Depending on the size of the branch, this can be a dangerous nuisance as it could block roads, obscure signage, or destroy property. Thanks to the efforts of the National Parks Board, these incidents have dropped from around 3,000 per year at the turn of the millennium to under 500 per year today.