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In episode 33, we talk with Carsten Brinkschulte – CEO, Dryad🌲 to find out how IoT sensors are being used to combat wildfires🔥, save the environment and explore the unexplored 🌊 🌎

Dryad, provides environmentally friendly IoT solutions to aid ultra-early detection of wildfires to mitigate Natural Disasters and contribute to the lowering of CO2 Emissions and wildlife preservation.

We start off by exploring how IoT sensors can be used to stop and combat forest fires ultra-early and why this is critical to our environment. We then start lensing in on the impacts of wildfires to the environment, what the wide deployment of IoT ultra-early wildfire detection sensors will bring and the barriers to this. We end the episode, considering other use cases of IoT sensors to monitor forest health, biodiversity, track animals and explore the unexplored parts of the ocean 🌊.

Sit back, relax, tune in and discover

  • Carsten’s background in IoT 01:05 – 02:47 🌲
  •  How IoT and IoT sensors can stop and combat forest wildfires? Ultra Early wildfire detection 02:47 – 04:47 🌳
  • Ultra early detection of wildfires – Why this is critical and how sensors can enable this? 04:47 – 06:02 🌲
  • LoRaWAN – How and why LoRaWAN sensors are leveraged over other standards for wildfires? 06:02- 10:14 🌳
  • What impacts will the wide deployment of IoT sensors have on Co2 emissions and the future of the environment? 10:14 – 13:49 🌲 
  •  The barriers to wide deployment 13:49 – 15:05 🌳
  • How sensors can also be used to monitor the health of the forest – tree growth, conditions, water, microclimate? How this can be expanded to other habitats including the oceans, rivers etc. 15:05 – 18:38 🌲
  • What other areas of the forest can be tracked via sensors? – Tracking of animals, biodiversity, AI 18:38 – 22:49 🌳 

Episode Transcript


Tom White:
Welcome to The IoT Podcast show. I’m your host, Tom White. Today we are joined by Carsten Brinkschulte. Carsten is the founder and CEO of Dryad. Dryad provides environmentally-friendly IoT solutions, including ultra-early detection of wildfires. They hope to mitigate natural disasters by the use of this technology, including lowering CO2 emissions worldwide and the preservation and conservation of wildlife. As a serial entrepreneur, Carsten has over 20 years experience in complex telecoms systems. Carsten, thank you so much for joining the show.

Carsten Brinkschulte:
Thank you.

What is your background in IoT?

Tom White:
You’re very welcome. Carsten, could you just start by explaining a little bit about your background in IoT?

Carsten Brinkschulte:
Yeah. I’ve spent the last 20, 25 years in telecoms, actually. And I’ve had four startups in the telecom space, in the telecoms infrastructure software. The last company I ran was Core Network Dynamics out of Berlin. We did a 4G network infrastructure software, like a little Nokia, basically.

And we sold that to Twilio in 2018. Before that, I ran a startup in London, called Movirtu and we did a virtual SIM infrastructure software to virtualize, to disconnect the mobile phone number from the handset, actually. And that was sold to Blackberry. Before that, I ran for seven years in the UK, a public company called Synchronica in the messaging space. So mobile email when it was still sexy at the time.

Tom White:
Yeah. Okay, fantastic. So deep experience in telecoms, then.

Carsten Brinkschulte:
Yeah, I’m a telecoms guy, yes.

Tom White:
Yeah. Yeah. So it’s funny you should mention Twilio because very large company doing a lot of work at the moment in IoT. So you actually had a business that was sold to Twilio.

Carsten Brinkschulte:
Yes. We sold Core Network Dynamics to Twilio. And what we did was a 4G infrastructure software called Evolved Packet Core. I’m not going to bore you with the technical details, but that’s basically the nuts and bolts of a 4G LTE network.

Tom White:
Right. I see. Okay.

Carsten Brinkschulte:
And it’s now part of Twilio’s network services.

Tom White:
Yeah. Yeah. It’s-

Carsten Brinkschulte:
IoT in particular.

Tom White:
Yes. I have a couple of friends that work at Twilio and a good company experiencing-

Carsten Brinkschulte:
It’s a good company, definitely.

How is the Dryad solution helping combat wildfires?

Tom White:
Yeah, experiencing some growth at the moment. So Carsten, I mean, we’ve never had anyone on the show that has specifically had a product that can prevent forest fires. And when we’re talking about natural disasters, this has to be one of the main use cases, hasn’t it, for an IoT sensor.

So, I mean, clearly, it’s one of the biggest climate issues we face in the world. So how do Dryad sensors stop and combat, or try to stop and combat forest fire breakouts?

Carsten Brinkschulte:
Yeah, so the Dryad sensors, are basically gas sensors that we place directly into the forest. We attach them to a tree. And they scan for the gases which are emitted during the smouldering phase of a fire.

And you’ve got an increase in hydrogen, CO2, carbon monoxide and other gases when there is a fire nearby. And our sensors actually detect those changes in the air using some artificial intelligence software that we run in the sensors. They scan for those patterns.

And when they detect those changes in the air composition that are typical for a wildfire, they then send out an alert over our own wireless network. Because I’m a network guy, so we’re building our own mobile network for the sensors.

And then the messages are being sent over the network to a cloud platform where we do analytics and alerting. So the alerts eventually get sent out over email and SMS or phone calls to alert the fire brigades. We send them directly to the GPS coordinate of the sensor that actually triggered the alarm.

And that’s a first, I have to say. And as far as we’re aware, nobody’s doing it this way. There are many good approaches for detecting wildfires, and all of them make sense.

But what we focus on is what we call ultra-early detection of wildfires. We want to catch wildfires in the first hour of the fire starting very early on when it’s still very small. And that gives the critical time advantage… That’s our intention… to the firefighters to actually extinguish the fire before it spreads out of control, because that, to be honest is the biggest problem of existing systems.

That they do detect them, either optical systems or satellites that look at wildfires, but they do detect them too late. And if they detect them too late, there’s not much use in it. When you come as a firefighter, you arrive at the scene and there’s a football pitch in flames. What are you going to do? So we want to bring them to the fire when it’s still a small one.

Why do you leverage LoRaWAN over other standards?

Tom White:
Yeah. Well, I think that’s critical, isn’t it? If we look at recent news events in Australia and other parts of the world where you have these pretty much uncontrollable fires, having a solution, which is ultra-early really is a must.

And I guess, in the past, we’ve been limited by the tech to do that and to produce that. And hopefully, that’s something that Dryad is accomplishing. I understand you’re using LoRa, so LoRaWAN, as one of your technologies behind this. Could you talk a bit about why you chose LoRa in particular as a sensor, and why it might have been a better choice than other technology stacks on the market at the moment?

Carsten Brinkschulte:
 Good point. So see, my background is 4G, 5G networks. So naturally, my choice would have been to use NarrowBand IoT, which is something that runs in a 4G network to do IoT in an IoT environment.

That would have been the natural choice for me. The problem is that in the natural environment of the forest, there is a pretty good chance that there is no network coverage by the standard mobile network operators, right? Because the operators they put… and it’s quite expensive when you build a 4G or 5G network.

They put their radio towers where there is money. Money is where people are, and that’s not where the forest is. It’s almost like the opposite. When you look at network coverage maps around the world, where you have white spots, that’s exactly where the forest is because of course, who’s going to do a multi-billion dollar installation of 4G towers in the middle of nowhere where nobody will ever use a smartphone, right? So they don’t do it.

So effectively, we couldn’t use 4G or NarrowBand IoT in our target area, which is the deep forest. There’s no alternative. We couldn’t use existing NarrowBand IoT or 4G or 5G, or even 2G network coverage because it’s not available.

The other alternative would have been to use satellites communication, but that requires a large amount of energy to communicate to the satellite. And that would make the sensors very expensive, ridiculously expensive.

So we needed a ultra-low-cost, ultra-low-power, long-range communications network. And we looked at the market and there is NarrowBand IoT from 4G and I explained why that wasn’t a good choice. Then there was Sigfox. And then there was LoRaWAN, basically, and a few other not so relevant alternatives yet. So it’s basically Sigfox or LoRaWAN, which can do that.

Sigfox is a proprietary network run by one company. So we wouldn’t be able to build our own Sigfox networks in areas where Sigfox doesn’t decide to go. You can’t use Sigfox, so that again was not an option. And the only choice really was to use LoRaWAN.

LoRaWAN is a long-range wireless network, low bandwidth, so you can’t do video calls, but you can send a few bytes, enough to alert someone of a fire over it. And it’s free to air. So we don’t need to pay a huge license fee to the regulators. It is globally standardized, and it has very long-range communications over several miles, and you can transmit the data and it uses very little battery energy. And that is all key aspects of what we needed for our solution. There really wasn’t any choice other than LoRa.

What impact will the long-term deployment of the sensors have?

Tom White:
Yeah. And I think it’s a very neat solution, isn’t it, Carsten? I mean, we’re friends with the people at The Things Industries and The Things Network. So we understand those guys. And it works well. And I think you’ve encapsulated that really well in the sense that you only need to send a few bytes in order to get that information across.

And there could not be more of a critical use case, or at least in the top five critical use cases, than what Dryad are looking to do with your deployments. And I really mean that. A lot of the use cases out there are for the enrichment of people’s lives, which isn’t a bad thing, of course. But to actually prevent natural disasters, I mean, it’s how do you top that?

Just on that note, in terms of the impacts that the deployment of these sensors will have both immediately and long-term, what does that look like? Because yes, you can stop, or work to stop wildfires with ultra-early detection, but the immediate and long-term benefits of that, what do you hope to achieve?

Carsten Brinkschulte:
Right. Yeah. So Dryad really is, I guess, what you would call an impact for profit. So we want to be a profitable company because then I think we think we can have even more impact. But impact is the ultimate mission. And the impact that we want to have is to reduce CO2 emissions globally, as much as we possibly can.

And for that, you need to know how much is actually the total addressable market of impact, so to say. Yeah, is 20% of all global CO2 emissions are from wildfires. So that’s about the same amount of CO2 that the entire traffic, all cars, all ships, all airplanes each year are contributing to climate change. Wildfires are doing the same. At the same time, they’re also destroying the world’s largest carbon sink. That is the forest. So it’s a double whammy, right? So every hectare of forest that we can prevent from burning will help to battle climate change because it cuts into those 20% of all CO2 emissions.

So what is the impact that we can have is really dependent upon how many sensors can we deploy? And what’s the area that we can protect? And of course, you can have wild dreams and big projections, but like every company, we also have a business plan.

So we intend to sell millions of those sensors and install millions of them. And our goal is to prevent about 10 million tons of CO2 emissions by 2030 by installing about 1.2 million sensors worldwide that protect a large area of the critical forest that has a high probability of wildfires. And with that, we can predict the probability of how much CO2 would have been exposed into the air if we hadn’t protected it.

So our models are suggesting that we can prevent about 10 million tons of CO2 by 2030, which is achievable and can even be more if we can scale faster than we currently are planning. So it’s really limited by how many sensors can you deploy in the shortest amount of time? And so, the sky’s the limit there, really. Every wildfire, even the biggest ones in Australia or California, they all go down. They all go back to one single event, right? And the wildfires in Australia last year emitted 400 million tons of CO2. One fire caused that in the end, right? So if we could stop that one fire, we would save 400 million tons of CO2.

Tom White:
Yeah. I mean, that’s crazy numbers, isn’t it? It’s interesting you should talk about the total addressable market. It’s something that we talk a lot about. But it must be hard to work out the time, right?

It must be hard to work out the actual size of this and what it could be because anything that you can do to limit that is a positive, isn’t it? And the more and more sensors you can place out there, the better this will be. And is that the limiting factor is the speed of the deployment of the sensors and the speed of which you can get this actually on the ground? Is that what you’re hampered by?

Carsten Brinkschulte:
In fact, it would be. The larger the areas that we can protect, the bigger the impact we will have. And so, yes, there will be a cost to our sensors, obviously. So we have a business model that allows us to remain profitable. And of course, we expect our customers to pay for the solution. We can’t give it away for free because otherwise, where’s the money coming from? So that’s why we have a business plan, like every other business have.

But part of our business plan is the impact aspect of it. So every sensor that we deploy has an impact in terms of CO2 emissions. And yes, we are limited by the number of sensors. If we could give away our sensors for free, yeah, we could have a much bigger impact, of course. So it’s a question of how much capital do you have? What’s the cost of the sensor? And then, how many can you produce and install?

What other ways can the Dryad sensors help protect the environment?

Tom White:
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think that what is great about Dryad and the big differentiation for your company is your commitment to minimizing environmental impact. Not just by the use case of your product, but throughout your supply chain, from manufacturing to architecture.

Long-term goals, past obviously deployment of sensors, and without revealing too many details of course, but what else do you think Dryad, as a business, could be capable now that you have this use case specifically around early detection of fires?

Carsten Brinkschulte:
Yeah. So the ultra-early detection of wildfires is clearly what you would call a killer application, right? It’s the key thing that everybody gets immediately and makes a lot of sense. But once we have installed our system, our network in the forest, you could say we become something like Vodafone of the forest. Now, once you have that network installed in the forest, you can do other things than just detect and prevent wildfires.

For example, we want to monitor the health status of the forest. We want to measure the soil moisture. We want to measure the tree growth. We want to measure the sub flow, like how much water is the tree drinking. We can measure the microclimate in the forest. We can help to manage the forest better and regrow the forest. Not just prevent it from being destroyed, but also to restore it, because in the next 50 years, we’ll have to build a lot of trees to re-establish that carbon-sucking function that it has and to revitalize it.

So we want to go beyond just stopping its destruction and helping it to regrow and be the data network, the IoT sensor network that provides all of that. But eventually, long-term as a vision, Dryad can also go outside of the forest. We could deploy our systems in the oceans. On the oceans, not in the ocean, on top of the oceans. We could go into lakes, into large rivers, everywhere where you have the requirement for natural data acquisition. Natural, I mean, in the natural environment.

Tom White:
Yeah, yeah.

Carsten Brinkschulte:
And that’s what we say with Dryad. We’re saying our tagline is connecting the natural world. So that’s like the long-term vision for the company.

Tom White:
Yeah. I mean, it’s fantastic, isn’t it, because just thinking out loud, you potentially have the ability to learn more about forests. And certainly, if, let’s say that you went into the ocean with your sensors in the future, more about our actual planning, more so than we actually already know.

So not only can you monitor air, water, precipitation, but let’s say you had some audio sensors, or what have you, you could measure cluster of wildlife, why certain sections of wildlife congregate in certain areas of forest. And this acquisition of data, as you say, is paramount to that, isn’t it?

Carsten Brinkschulte:

Tom White:
So the ability to learn more about our planet, I mean, there’s a famous phrase that says, “We know more about the solar system than we do our ocean floor.” Right?

Carsten Brinkschulte:
That’s absolutely true, unfortunately.

How can we monitor forest conditions via IoT sensors?

Tom White:
Yeah. Yeah. But with the advent of IoT in general and the sensors and what you’re doing, that’s fantastic. Just going back to the forest for now, what other areas could you look to monitor and improve by use of data acquisition? So potentially improve in air conditions or to enable wildlife to thrive, how might that work with the use of sensors?

Carsten Brinkschulte:
I mean, yes, looking at biodiversity is a key thing. You can track animals, for example. And I’ve seen LoRaWAN projects in Africa.

They actually do track elephants, for example, and monitor their whereabouts and their movements. That is something which we could do as well, right, because we are going to create a communications network for the natural world. And the forest is our main target for the next few years. That includes other aspects of the forest, not just the trees.

And the wildlife in the forest is quite important. The forests are home to three quarters of all biodiversity on Earth. And the impact on that is just as bad as the wildfires have on the climate, right? So every hectare of forest that burns also destroys the environment for the biodiversity that used to live in there.

And so, in Australia last year, I think it was a billion animals that died in that forest, one billion. And we’re not talking ants. We’re talking reptiles and up. So it’s a lot of things that we can prevent and help to monitor and improve. It’s about putting a finger on the pulse of the forest. And we want to help to regrow, to restore, to revitalize it.

And IoT is a key element of that for data acquisition. After IoT, you need to make sense of the data. Now, while we have the data in the cloud, in our analytics platform, we intend to use artificial intelligence on top of the data to help forest owners and policymakers make sense of that data, to take decisions and to influence and to improve that environment.

So we’re about data acquisition, data transport and then, data processing, analytics and advise with artificial intelligence. That’s what I think we can do as a vision for the company.

Tom White:
Yeah. Fantastic. Fantastic. And did we hear it here first? Is there going to be a Dryad Marine subsidiary? Is that something that’s coming up, Carsten?

Carsten Brinkschulte:
No, it’s not coming up. But if you look 10 years in the future, then maybe. This is really a long-term plan. The forest is huge and it’s a great target for us at the moment.

Tom White:
Yeah, absolutely. Well, Carsten, look, I really appreciate you coming onto the show. It’s been fantastic to understand more about Dryad and long-term goals that you have as a business and also, the technology that you’re doing right now. I think it’s fantastic. I couldn’t be further behind this. It’s great. Can the listeners find you on social media, Dryad? Have you got a website that they can go to, to find out some more information?

Carsten Brinkschulte:
Yeah, obviously we have a website, We’re on Twitter and we’re on LinkedIn, easily found by our name. So we’re not on Facebook, to be honest. Maybe something we need to do. But LinkedIn, Twitter and the web. That’s how they can get in contact with us.

Tom White:
Perfect. Perfect. Well hopefully, this will be coming up on the screen now, as people are watching and/or listening. But Carsten, thank you so much for coming on to the show. Really appreciate it. And great to understand more about Dryad.

Carsten Brinkschulte:
Thanks, Tom.

The IoT Podcast Team

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