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US DHS kicks off workstream for sensor tech to combat wildfires

Four companies have been selected to develop and hopefully commercialise their technology to tackle this growing challenge.


The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has selected four technology partners to participate in a new wildfire sensors workstream of the Smart Cities Internet of Things Innovation (SCITI) Labs.


The SCITI Labs Initiative brings together companies to identify and accelerate potential solutions for homeland security research challenges.


The four companies are:

  • Ai4 Technologies, Inc. (San Francisco, California): Proprietary technology for georeferencing and analysis of LiDAR, images and video in near real-time.
  • Breeze Technologies UG (Hamburg, Germany): Small-scale air quality sensors, data and analytics.
  • N5 Sensors, Inc. (Rockville, Maryland): Smart sensors to be incorporated into smart cities, wearable/portable devices, and environmental monitoring devices.
  • Valor Fire Safety (Londonderry, New Hampshire): Develops and licenses ESP smoke detection technology.

Over the next six months, the companies will begin developing prototypes or modifying existing products, to be evaluated against DHS requirements for combating wildfires that impact urban areas.


The focus will be on capabilities such as real-time and continuous identification of heat sources and smoke to detect ignition location, tracking fire perimeters, tracking fire characteristics, and enabling geographically targeted notifications and warnings.




The SCITI Labs approach aims to ensure a streamlined commercialisation process is included in the technology evaluation, to ensure technologies are useable, affordable and scalable. Having recently concluded a two-year effort focusing on sensor-based technologies for public safety, the SCITI Labs team will now embark on a similar effort for the fire service.


“Wildfires continue to threaten lives, homes and critical infrastructure. The goal of this effort is to identify where technology solutions can be brought in line with other commercially available products for home and property security,” said Jeff Booth, Director of S&T’s Sensors and Platforms Technology Center. “We want to identify a development roadmap that works hand-in-hand with a commercialisation path that advances not only the science and engineering aspects of this technology, but also the availability of these capabilities to the broader homeland security enterprise – from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to state and local emergency management to civilians.”


Over the next six months, the companies will begin the process of developing prototypes or modifying existing products, to be evaluated against DHS requirements for combating wildfires that impact urban areas.


SCITI Labs will work with end-users – including FEMA and state and local fire services – and the industry partners to incorporate feedback and assessment data into the products.


“We’re excited to embark upon this effort where our technical subject matter experts will work directly with commercialisation experts and first responders to advance these capabilities,” said John Merrill, Director, First Responders and Detection Division. “We hope this will drive down costs of available solutions to responders and introduce innovation into the marketplace.”


Wildfire threat


In 2018, California saw its worst wildfires to date and record blazes also broke out in Greece, Portugal and Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.


Since July last year, fires had been burning across New South Wales (NSW) in Australia. Dozens of people have died, over a billion animals are feared dead and more than 11 million hectares are said to have burned. A recent spell of rain has helped to put the fires out but wildfires are a growing concern.


According to research published recently, climate change is significantly increasing the risk of wildfires by encouraging hot and dry weather conditions. Over the past four decades, the length of fire seasons has increased by 20 per cent across more than a quarter of the world’s vegetated land surface, National Geographic reports.


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