Green

The forest has…ears? CIA invests in ImageTree

updatedImageTree, a company that says it can measure and track forests down to the species type of individual trees, said it has received an undisclosed strategic investment from In-Q-Tel, the investment firm founded by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Why would In-Q-Tel invest in a technology used primarily by the foresting industry? Well, In-Q-Tel isn’t saying much. But there are two possible areas of interest. First, ImageTree, based in West Virginia, can track growth of illicit crops. Second, it can be used to help track timber usage for the purpose of compliance with carbon-credit markets for upcoming cap-and-trade regimes. In-Q-Tel’s mandate has expanded over the past five years, and now represents other U.S. security agencies besides just the CIA, and so energy policy could be a part of that.

The company uses data taken from remote sensors on the ground and trees, along with satellite imagery to track forestry patterns. Demos on the company’s Web site show its detailed topographical images, down to a meter in precision.

In-Q-Tel did say that the investment doubles as a technology development agreement, suggesting that the company’s real use may come in the future. Troy M. Pearsall, In-Q-Tel’s executive vice president of architecture and engineering, said in a statement that the company holds “promise of further significant developments that will have broad utility for the intelligence community.”

In other words, we may have to wait for the next James Bond movie to find out.

Update: I was finally able to reach ImageTree’s chief executive, Mark Redlus, and he said the company can even track trees down to a tenth of a meter in some cases.