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Hotspot-seeking cameras to help Utah detect wildfires

The early detection wildfire imaging network uses three tower-mounted, AI-enabled thermal imaging cameras to detect and report hotspots to area fire departments.

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Wildfire detection system was developed by the smart cities team at Utopia Fiber
Wildfire detection system was developed by the smart cities team at Utopia Fiber

A beta test of a wildfire early detection system which aims to ‘significantly’ reduce emergency response times and potential fire damage is underway in three Wasatch Front cities, a metropolitan region in north central Utah.

 

Utah is one of the most wildfire prone states in the US and wildfire season is upon it.

 

Thermal imaging cameras

 

The Edwin project (Early detection wildfire imaging network) uses three tower-mounted, AI-enabled thermal imaging cameras to detect and report hotspots to area fire departments, saving critical time for first responders.

 

The system was developed by the smart cities team at Utopia Fiber (Utah Telecommunication Open Infrastructure Agency) in conjunction with a Brigham Young University Capstone project.

 

The test was launched simultaneously in Layton, Murray, and Woodland Hills, and leverages Utopia Fiber’s ultra- beta fast fibre network to instantly transmit video and other data to authorities when just a small hotspot is detected.

 

“The Edwin project thermal imaging cameras are so advanced, they can detect a hot spot down to a pixel,” said Roger Timmerman, executive director, Utopia Fiber. “Once the cameras detect temperatures exceeding 300 degrees Fahrenheit, data is instantly transmitted through Utopia’s fibre lines to the fire department which can review and respond.”

 

For decades, Salt Lake Valley fire crews have depended largely on residents dialling 911 when they spotted smoke. In many instances, these calls come in too late to prevent the rapid spread of fire, especially during dry and windy conditions.

“Once the cameras detect temperatures exceeding 300 degrees Fahrenheit, data is instantly transmitted through Utopia’s fibre lines to the fire department which can review and respond”

According to Utopia, the Edwin project is programmed to automatically alert crews to developing hotspots well before smoke is visible, significantly cutting down response times and potential fire damage.

 

To quantify, each minute of response time that is reduced is estimated to prevent between $44,000 and $215,000 in economic loss (including $3,029 in firefighting costs), depending on topography and population density.

 

Infrastructure

 

The total annualised cost of US wildfires is $24bn (NIFC: National Interagency Fire Centre), primarily driven by the cost of homes, infrastructure, air pollution, and firefighting.

 

Utopia Fiber’s smart cities team will track response times and compare that data to records from previous years to quantify reductions in significant wildfire events.

 

“We’ve seen first-hand how devastating wildfires can be,” added Alex Jensen, Layton’s city manager. “Now, with earlier detection, we can prevent a small problem from becoming a large one. Having a headstart will save lives and property. Layton City is proud to be part of the Edwin project’s beta test for the nation.”

 

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