Several dozen casualties, tens of thousands destroyed houses, hundreds of thousands hectares of burnt land, major damage to local flora, and losses amounting to over $15 billion – 2017 was truly tragic for California. Raging fire invaded the state, leaving nothing behind. Man has no chance against such a powerful element. Two companies, Taxus IT from Poland and IT for Nature from the USA, introduce a camera powered by AI that can detect smoke even from as far as 10 miles away. Imagine this…
Wildfires invade without a warning
Napa Valley, Sunday, 9 p.m. American families prepare to rest for the upcoming Monday. Many children head to their beds, wishing the weekend lasted a bit longer. No one suspects that smoke might have appeared somewhere in the tree crowns of a nearby forest. No one can know it is soon going to transform itself into an unstoppable wildfire. The flames are extremely fast, accelerated by the 44-mph wind. They get closer and closer to the residential area. Fighting this wildfire suddenly turned into a major challenge. Every single second may mean the difference between someone’s survival or demise.
When fighting fires – time is of the essence
Until now, California has experienced over 8 thousand fires, the last two disasters – in the Sonoma and Napa Counties – took over 40 human lives. Over 550 thousand houses in the Southern California are in the high-risk areas right now. Every night during the wildfire season, when people go to sleep, they keep the images of the 2017 tragedies in the backs of their heads, thinking whether they will be able to welcome the next day. High-risk areas are constantly being patrolled by specialist crews, monitoring their surroundings from very high towers, trying to detect any signals indicative of an incoming danger. There are also special fire alarm centers which utilize traditional cameras to monitor the surrounding areas. The guard on duty is responsible for analyzing live-recordings from the cameras displayed on a big screen. The rest looks similar – after any trace of smoke is detected, the person on duty will report their findings to appropriate services, together with its approximate location. Having received the report, a dispatcher will try to pinpoint the exact location of the fire. Next, all the data are being sent to appropriate fire fighting services, and only after firefighters had arrived at the place in question, they may begin fighting the flames. Sometimes, the driver may have problems with reaching a marked location or even with finding it altogether. Time does not wait, however, enabling the flames to consume even more hectares of land. What would happen, if the guard on duty were exhausted, fell asleep or left their post for a moment – and therefore failed to detect smoke right away? He could have called for alarm only after 30 minutes, two hours… maybe five? When human lives are in danger, every second counts. There is no time for mistakes, oversights, or coincidences.
AI-powered camera – chance for a better future?
A team of exceptional IT specialist has devised a special camera, together with compatible AI, called SmokeD, providing 24/7 surveillance without any human intervention necessary. The cameras are placed high over the ground level to achieve the broadest possible surveillance range. AI utilizes special algorithms which detect smoke in pictures and automatically sends reports to appropriate services. Thanks to Artificial Intelligence, mobile app technology, and the cooperation of local communities, camera owners and firefighting services can receive reports on possible wildfire danger. Firefighters can also access each camera live to assess how many units are they going to need to fend off the fire, as well as in which direction it spreads. Firefighting operation begins immediately.
Artur Matuszczak, CEO of IT for Nature, says:
There are many cameras available on the market, but none can detect wildfires independently. We have designed the only camera in the world dedicated to surveillance – not taking pictures, but legitimate, independent surveillance. Our solution combines the data gathered from surveillance cameras with a large number of inexpensive and precise in-built smartphone cameras. The implementation of AI enables us to pinpoint wildfires faster and with greater accuracy. It will also improve the communication with local, federal, and state firefighting services. The unique design of our SmokeD cameras, combined with the AI and the engagement of the app users will provide great support to fire prevention services. Maintenance costs are also very cheap when juxtaposed with the crucial role our solution plays in the entire system – it is just a monthly subscription.
Your actions matter
This problem concerns us all – inhabitants of the Earth. Improper management regarding forest economy and the ways humans contributed to climate change caused the wildfires to be more unpredictable and destructive than ever. Hence, we need to focus on ways to improve our fire detection methods and the communication channels with firefighting services. The sooner firefighters can get a report on a fire danger, the more probable it is to prevent possible casualties, damage to residential buildings and business facilities, the destruction of hectares of land, as well as to limit the emission of toxic air pollutants and greenhouse gases. Our SmokeD system – if utilized on a mass scale – would greatly decrease the destructive force of future wildfires. Not only in the United States, but everywhere on Earth where communities face similar dangers.