Fighting forest fires with IoT

The use of sensors compatible with the Internet of Things can help detect these outbreaks of fire and alert the competent authorities before they even break out and thus help prevent forest fires.

In the United States, in November 2018, a wildfire raged for 17 days, killing 85 people and destroying nearly 19,000 homes, businesses and other buildings in the town of Paradise, California, located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

Nearly four years later, entire tracts of land on the city of Paradise have remained empty, surrounded by charred trees and scorched earth. According to a report published by CAL FIRE, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the fire was caused by faulty power lines, and was initiated by sparks from a broken steel hook supporting a power line. high tension. On average, forest fires burn twice more of land every year than they did 40 years ago. Paradise is just one example of many other cities, towns and urban communities to have been destroyed by wildfires.

Impacts of forest fires

Since the dawn of time, forest fires have ravaged forests and crops, destroying everything in their path, from animals and plants to buildings and homes. Fires can be beneficial, but when we push the limits of urban growth and remove the risk of fires, their damage only increases in size and severity. For example, in 2021, the United States has set records drought and heat wave, which has often accelerated forest fires throughout the country.

In addition to destroying homes, wildlife and human lives, wildfires contribute significantly to reinforcing climate change. A medium forest fire emits between 5 and 30 tons of carbon for each hectare consumed, or about the size of two football fields.

Add other wildfire impacts, such as erosion and flooding, and you have a host of issues, including the reliability of energy providers and other networked services that people depend on every day. , as well as the health and safety of citizens.

The problems posed by the detection of forest fires

By detecting a fire soon after it starts, you can reduce the reaction time and the magnitude of the potential damage. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.

The slightest spark, or poorly extinguished ashes, can turn into a forest fire. Since forest fires depend on different factors, such as the trigger, the environment, and the efforts made to extinguish it, their lifespan can vary. And for many forest fires that start in rural areas, the lifespan of the fire can be extended by the density of vegetation, untended forests and the presence of debris.

With so many factors contributing to define the nature of a forest fire, and given that 90 percent of wildfires are human-causedit is extremely difficult to predict when and where they will trigger, which makes their early detection all the more important.

LoRa sensors and IoT-enabled sensors

However, you should know that the use of sensors compatible with the Internet of Things (IoT) can help detect these outbreaks of fire and alert the competent authorities before they even break out and thus help prevent fires. of forest. The Internet of Things (IoT, for Internet of Things) has become a widely used tool in sectors such as, among others, health, transport, industry or retail, by making it possible to connect devices and apps to simplify processes that help large groups of people. Thanks to long distance and low consumption technologies such as LoRa, NB-IoT and Wi-Fi, IoT devices can enjoy better range and communicate with other devices at a lower rate.

Until now, traditional fire monitoring systems have used satellite imagery, ground cameras and watchtowers to detect the presence of flames or smoke in a given area. But in the face of drought-ravaged landscapes, forest fires spread so quickly that detecting them soon after the fire starts is already too late.

However, energy suppliers, firefighters, and even entire cities, can now deploy IoT-enabled sensors in remote or hard-to-reach areas to collect data that can alert them to a possible imminent fire outbreak. Long-range, low-power sensors (which work with the standard LoRaWAN) allow users to collect data in the densest, most isolated, and most remote forest environments. Thanks to the IoT solutions in place, operators can take measurements and detect problems remotely, before they become a crisis to be managed. The LoRaWAN standard is ideal in this case because the connectivity is always on and always ready to alert the authorities if there is a change in the readings, among others, temperature, humidity, air pressure or direction/force. the wind.

The energy-efficient nature of the sensors, thanks to LoRa technology, allows battery-operated IoT objects to be connected wirelessly to standard gateways using LoRaWAN and remain in place in their environment for approximately 15 years without any maintenance.

Put into practice

Dryad Networksan IoT start-up specializing in the environment and based in Berlin-Brandenburg, Germany, is on a mission to fight fires and limit their impact on climate change.

Dryad has partnered with Semtech and Swarm, a global satellite communications network developer, to create an ultra-early wildfire detection system. The company’s solar sensing system, Silvanet, uses artificial intelligence (AI) to detect abnormal gas compositions in the air. To connect the IoT system, Silvanet provides a long-range, low-power wireless network that has been extended by a mesh network architecture (patent pending), capable of covering large areas of forest. With built-in compatibility for Swarm’s satellite radio connectivity, Dryad receives data from remote areas in real time, enabling rapid response. Swarm’s network, made up of 120 satellites, covers all points of the globe, allowing data transmission from anywhere, even in the absence of mobile coverage.

Silvanet consists of three main tools:

1. The Silvanet Mesh Gateway (Mesh Gateway) extends the Silvanet network, for larger deployments, beyond the standard direct connection range, between sensors and gateways on standard LoRaWAN networks. The architecture uses a multi-hop mesh network composed of gateways interconnected with Semtech’s LoRa components. Each acts as a standard network gateway, using LoRaWAN to communicate with Silvanet wildfire sensors and third-party sensors. Mesh network gateways are placed in the forest and form a mesh network with a typical distance of around 2 to 6 km, depending on the topology and the physical location of the gateways.

2. The Silvanet (Border Gateway) is located at the edge of the target forest area, usually in a house or near a village. The gateway communicates with the Clouding Silvanet platform and relays messages from forest fire sensors. The built-in LTE radio module provides wireless connectivity or uses the built-in Ethernet adapter via a wired Internet connection. For more remote deployments, where there is no mobile network coverage or power grid, the Silvanet Gateway includes compatibility with a satellite uplink, which uses Swarm’s satellite network. It works thanks to the electricity network, or can be powered by photovoltaic cells.

3. The Silvanet Wildfire Sensor (Wildfire Sensor) is designed to detect wildfires as soon as they start, as well as to monitor microclimates, by measuring temperature, humidity and air pressure. The sensor combines ultra-low power air quality detection with an accurate gas detection mode. It detects hydrogen, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, as well as other types of gases, at the parts per million (ppm) level, and uses a built-in AI engine to detect fires and avoid false positives . The sensor uses LoRaWAN connectivity for wireless data transmission and can operate without any maintenance for 10-15 years.

Dryad sensors are able to detect a new fire in 30 to 60 minutes, depending on sensor location.

When it comes to wildfires, every second counts. Early detection can not only save the lives of residents by alerting them and evacuating populations in time, but it also reduces many costs associated with firefighting, as well as the resources used to do so.

IoT compatible sensors to preserve the environment

Individuals can harness the power of connected objects not only to prevent the destruction caused by wildfires, but also to preserve the environment. In reality, the use of Silvanet is not reserved for the detection of forest fires. As the system uses the LoRaWAN standard, the large-scale solar mesh network can be connected to many third-party sensors using LoRaWAN and the Silvanet mesh network, to send the data from the sensors to the cloud. Environmental data sensors measuring soil moisture, ozone concentration, tree growth, and sap flow can be used to provide essential tree health data and monitor tree growth, helping to improve the future. forestry industry.

Like most industries, the forestry industry could greatly benefit from digitizing its tools and operations. Previously, the forestry industry was lagging behind due to lack of network coverage. From now on, network coverage is possible even in the most remote areas of forests around the world.

Fighting climate change with the Internet of Things

Changes in climate, whether caused by human or natural activities, rapidly alter weather patterns and affect the natural balance. Temperature changes create conditions that influence wildfires and lead to changes in rainfall patterns, leading to more severe and frequent thunderstorms that cause flooding, landslides and destruction affecting entire communities.

The fight against climate change, including the increase in forest fires, is extremely important to protect our planet. IoT technologies can help us slow the destruction to come with smart solutions that are easy to deploy and use and protect the environment.

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Fighting forest fires with IoT


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