Smart Forests (New York City)

Smart Forests (New York City)


Develop the concept of networked, smart urban forests and use the tools to:
1) Study and understand the role of urban trees and vegetation in climate adaptation, human health and urban aesthetics;
2) Provide municipalities with economical and cost-cutting solutions for urban tree management and enhancement;
3) Engage citizens in both the use and stewardship of their urban forests.


• developing the computer vision tools to identify, quantify and track urban tree presence, distribution and health; Integrating and implementing sensors in urban infrastructure (e.g., street lights) in a cost effective and rapid fashion that is in correspondence with other project and research targets
• Developing applications, getting citizen engagement and uptake; get people to, both, see the value of and use the applications and data
• Overcoming impediments from local municipal regulations and permitting

Major Requirements:
• Develop and assemble multi-organizational and stakeholder project team
• Draft the project scope and identify the requirements, interests, investments, goals and deliverables of each team member
• Develop the project architecture and timeline
• Create the development teams for the project arms (tracking tree health, embedded sensors and heat islands) and develop the sensing networks
• Identify cities and areas for carrying out the pilot programs
• Design and roll out pilot; deploy sensor systems and pilot studies
• Gain stakeholder support and buy-in from the community; release online and mobile websites/apps

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs):

• Achieve a 50% increase in the visits and citizen contributions to the existing smart forests app and visitation/use rates of the pilot green spaces and walkways by 25%
• 5 media publication mentions and/or public events within 1 year
• Establish benchmarks for heat island mitigation & air pollution reduction; achieve milestones for heat island reduction Establish benchmarks for air pollution removal by urban trees
• Reduce the cost of traditional urban tree surveying and health tracking by 50%

Measurement Methods:

• Measurement and tracking of website statistics
• Measurement of accuracy, total time and cost inputs of an automated tree health tracking system compared to current manual surveying methods
• Quantification & comparison of costs of heat island mitigation
• tracking the number of self-initiated uploads of urban tree data by public or municipalities; Number of requests by additional municipalities


• Requires interoperable GPS, street-level imaging and mapping, environmental sensors streaming both real-time data and for long term records, citizen-based apps and data uploading, social networking
• Establishes benchmarks and standards for mitigating heat islands, air pollution and other services by urban trees
• NYC and national forest ecosystem standards, metrics, and best practices

Replicability, Scalability, and Sustainability:

• Standardized processes and systems can be replicated and scaled up or down to multiple cities/communities. The programs are planned to be replicated in multiple cities (Baltimore, Philadelphia, Chicago)
• The program will have a generalized framework which can be adopted and supported by new cities/communities; specific silos or platforms can have their own business model to create sustainable revenues.

Project Impacts:

• Create data streams that drive both scientific research and community web-based applications
• Generate environmental data at high spatial and temporal resolution that can be used by government, academia and the public for modeling, design and decision making, healthy living; long term records
• Improve the quality of life and increase equality within cities
• Increase community engagement in urban forests and, by doing so, promote and increase healthy activities and living
• Mitigate urban heat islands and adapt to future climate change scenarios
• Provide cost-saving technologies to municipalities that make it easier to support and enhance tree and green space infrastructure
• Contribute to smart city infrastructure and development through networked sensory systems and open data

Demonstration/Deployment Phases:

Phase I Pilot/Demonstration June 2016:
• Pilot application of the tree mapping and health tracking systems
• Operational website and app for tree mapping and green walking route planner
• Deployment of networked sensing system for urban heat islands study
Phase II Deployment June 2017:
• Expand the automated mapping and health tracking system to a real-time working application operating at full extent of Camera’s fleet
• Integration of mobile sensing systems to generate additional data streams to measure heat island effects and interactions with trees
• Integrate the data streams, sensory tools and public participation to launch study on urban environmental perceptions and uses of public space

Project milestone

In Development

Idea Complete
Prototype Complete
In Development