The smoky conditions created by the 2017 and 2018 fire seasons in B.C. prompted a Vancouver entrepreneur to wonder why more wasn’t being done to detect wildfires early before they blew up.
Now Hamed Noori’s business SenseNet Inc. is trialing technology that aims to do just that and will be partnering with the City of Vernon on a two-year pilot project.
Vernon’s fire chief is excited to be part of a pilot project that will see dozens of sensors for early wildfire detection installed around the city.
Right now officials mainly rely on people spotting fires.
“The reliability depends on people to see it, to detect it and then to do the right things. On the other end of the spectrum we have satellite imagery and some very expensive options, but this looks like it could be a very practical affordable way to blanket a community,” said Vernon fire chief David Lind.
During the two-year pilot project SenseNet Inc. is expected to install a network of 50-100 sensors to create a type of fire detection belt around the city.
The sensors collect data in real time about environmental conditions and an algorithm processes the data to look for anomalies that might indicate a fire.
“For example, increasing temperature, decreasing humidity, increasing CO, CO2 levels or abrupt changes in the NO2 level or methane levels,” explained Shahab Bahrami, the company’s chief technology officer.
“These detections are very sensitive so any small changes that are abnormal can be detected by our AI algorithms.”
The business says it’s previously successfully tested the technology in Vancouver and Williams Lake and is now looking to train its algorithm in a different climate and try to cut down on false alarms.
“The system is very unique because it doesn’t rely on smoke or a very large heat signature. We can detect the fire even when there is no smoke or no flame in the smoldering phases,” said Noori.
Noori explained that even in that early stage a fire will give off gases that the sensors can detect.
This week city council gave the go-ahead for staff to move forward with SenseNet on the trial which will be funded by the business and a research grant.
There is no cost to the city.
“I’m super excited about the opportunity to have sensing in some of our more remote areas. Vernon has this long drawn-out footprint and we have a lot of one-way in, one-way out access with lots of wildland interface…it would be just wonderful to have some early notification so we can get on anything really quite quick,” Lind said.
The pilot project is scheduled to start in August and last for two years.