Limerick bright sparks come up with wildfire detection system

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Emma O'Donovan, Sinead O'Dowd, Enda Kilgarrif, Adam Fahy & Souvik Kundu brainstorming their winning concept at the Analog Hackathon.

AN EARLY wildfire detection system devised by a team of Limerick innovators has won the Analog Devices Hackathon which set out to examine how the company’s technology could be used to combat climate change.

During the two-day event at the company’s Catalyst Hub on the Raheen Business Park, teams from Analog’s three Irish sites collaborated, researched and designed innovative solutions to mitigate the climate crisis.

The winning project was submitted by Limerick team members Adam Fahy, Sinead O’Dowd, Enda Kilgarrif, Brian McCarthy and Emma O’Donovan who were joined by Souvik Kundu from the Analog Dublin site. They presented a comprehensive technology and sustainable business solution that could have far-reaching benefits for forestation worldwide.

While the primary value of the proposed solution is in the early detection of fires and reducing their spread, another benefit is the reduction of deforestation as current measures like controlled burns could be avoided.

Team member Adam Fahy explained, “Year on year the wildfires in California are becoming more deadly and destructive. In 2018 alone, over 1.9 million acres were destroyed, 68 million tons of carbon dioxide was released – that’s twice Germany’s annual emissions, and over 100 people were killed.

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“With current detection measures, which include satellites and watch towers, it can take up to two to four hours for fire fighters to reach a scene. By this time, a fire has significantly increased in size and takes weeks to get under control.”

Teammate Brian McCarthy added, “If a fire is detected in two minutes it will require ten litres of water to extinguish, if detected in ten minutes it can take 1,000 litres. The amount of water required to extinguish wildfires is another climate change issue.”

Outlining the solution, Adam said, “We designed a mesh network of nodes that could be distributed across a forest to detect the potential for and presence of fire. Using a fusion of sensors to measure temperature, humidity and carbon monoxide, the nodes would communicate with each other and back to a station using LoRa transmitters.

“An online dashboard would allow park rangers or forest owners to detect areas at risk or points of origin in real-time allowing firefighters to be despatched to the right location at a much faster pace,” he added.

The winning team’s proposal went beyond the technology solution also setting out a sustainable business model through annual subscriptions.

Ten teams, made up of representatives from a wide variety of functions and skill-sets, pitched their ideas to the judging panel, Dragon’s Den style on the second afternoon of the Hackathon.

Other concepts included a wireless data centre management system for energy reduction; a methane capture-to-energy system; a smart microgrid system that drives efficient use of energy in local communities and a smart occupancy detection that can be retrofitted to existing houses to drive efficient heating systems.

The company will now examine the feasibility of developing the winning concept.