You know how something can work perfectly in the lab — then you take it out to the field and it misbehaves?
We certainly do, having brought plenty of “out-there” technology to “the field” before.
So, when heading up the mountain near Boise to do the first real-life test of our latest babies, we had thoroughly prepped ourselves psychologically for our stuff not to work right, not the first time ‘round — that never happens!
Still, Stella (our CEO in title but really the matriarch of our startup) insisted that it would work just fine.
Her argument for optimism was that we — the Voltree techies — have done our homework, so we’d be OK.
By “homework” Stella meant everybody’s countless sleepless nights pondering over data, designs, schematics, case studies and peer-reviewed journal papers on wildfire dynamics, the possible effect of higher-resolution climate data on prediction and interdiction of wildfires and, of course, the constant burying and digging-up, in Stella’s back yard, of more generations and iterations of Voltree sensor nodes than any of us cares to remember.
Stella argued that since we all spent nearly two years thinking up and addressing all the ways this tree-powered, mesh-networked, climate telemetry system could fail, we’d be OK when it came to “show time” this May.
So we headed up a wooded mountain, the exact location unknown to us (partially in the interests of fair testing of a new technology) with our Voltree nodes in tow.
Well, she was right and we were wrong! Success it was!
What we hadn’t prepared ourselves for was the selfless support of the folks at the National Interagency Fire Center. How could we possibly fail?
They loaned us controlled research land, satellites to piggy-back our transmissions, and experts to help and keep us city slickers safe in the wild.
They spent countless hours making sure a team of, well . . . Voltree nerds, with our wrong shoes, clothes and attitude towards actual remote forest land, were not only safe but had every chance of thoroughly evaluating our new technology.
So finally, the first four, fully-functional Voltree air-temperature and humidity sensor/transceiver, satellite capable prototype nodes are in the ground and have been shown to work as planned.
Voltree’s “two-ear, one-mouth” approach worked!
We listened carefully to what everyone had to tell us: the land management agencies of the US Government, various wildfire firefighting authorities, scientists, programmers and the ultimate reality-checkers: the techs in charge of deploying, calibrating and refurbishing all the automated weather monitors out there.
We heard about the technological and systemic limitations they face.
We learned their mission is so vast and complex that they sometimes must rely on what seems like hopelessly outdated technologies to the untrained eye — yet just as any mission that includes risk to human lives, one goes for tested, well proven and understood technology. This is the same reason why spaceships still fly with 1980s computers in them.
No matter what your politics are (and at Voltree we have as diverse a bunch as can be imagined), trust us when we tell you that the folks minding our forests care about saving lives, saving the environment and protecting property infinitely more than they care about politics.
Uncle Sam’s openness to new ideas and willingness to go up to the mountains with a bunch of city-slickers was as valuable as all the work we put into our system ourselves.
Oh, and, in the interests of full-disclosure and transparent dealings, they did grill the best burgers ever and at $5 each, they were a steal!
See for yourself! Watch the field test video on YouTube.
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