In the United States, there are 417 national park sites including national parks like Yellowstone and the Everglades. There are hundreds of other national parks spread around the world, but many governments can’t always adequately fund their maintenance since these parks are often vast and rural.
A recent report, called Smart Parks, offers a new path to maintaining sustainable national parks and urban green spaces. The report was created by lead author, Professor Edward Truch, a Director of the Connected Communities Research Lab at Lancaster University Management School and commissioned by the Lake District National Park Authority.
The Smart Parks report suggests that technological innovation, like the Internet of Things, is an ideal way to improve the overall park experience for tourists, while helping care for these natural environments in a financially feasible manner. The best part? This tech system can be adopted in national parks around the world.
The Internet of Things, which is basically connecting internet communication to everyday things like sensors, would help make parks technologically “smart” by connecting the area through a network which would exchange helpful information. The report points to many examples, such as Bigbelly’s Smart Bins and Disney’s Magic Band, where this is technology has already been implemented and has been helping with like waste management and personalized service.
This new way of collecting data would benefit a wide range of people including park visitors, conservationists, nearby communities and park employees. By implementing sensors or collecting information from park visitors, the real-time communication would provide vital information and connect national parks areas quickly and efficiently.
For example, this system could help campers with valuable updates like safety alerts about oncoming storms. This technology could also let park visitors in non-emergency situations like letting them know where there are open parking spots. This would not only allow people to enjoy the park with less stress but less time spent hunting down open spots means less CO2 emissions from cars driving around.
In an email interview with Green Matters, Professor Truch explains how Smart Parks could help visitors because they would have access to, “better real-time information to avoid traffic jams and queuing on roads, places of interest, attractions and eateries.”
Professor Truch further shares with Green Matters, “Technology can, not only form part of manufacturing of vehicles itself, but also create their own itineraries whereby ever visitor can enjoy a different customised journey that matches their personal preferences or, alternatively, to explore and decide as they go.”
Park employees can also benefit from this tech in many ways. For example, they could be notified when trash bins are full so they’ll know to avoid trips to empty bins which don’t need to be collected yet. This would help keep CO2 emissions down and allow park employees to focus on other tasks which can keep the park in top condition.
While at first it may sound unusual to implement this kind of technology into natural environments, many people are already using tech like this without realizing it. For example, many park visitors use apps like Google to locate where they are and help guide them to certain paths.
The report also points to evidence that the use of smart technologies is on the rise and the time is right for national parks to take advantage of this system. Research shows this system could critically help parks thrive with a financially feasible system since the cost of these technologies is becoming cheaper.
For those who may be hesitant about the idea of connecting national parks, Professor Truch told Green Matters that this technology is all but invisible and the ability to communicate things like safety alerts would only be there to help people.
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We'd love to see this everywhere!