The DHS and FEMA are working together to combat wildfires, by using Internet of Things (IoT) technology. The rise of the Internet of Things has connected more devices for more consumers and enterprises than ever before. The opportunities to connect departments in the federal government, to mitigate and prevent wildfires seemed to be a powerful collaboration.
Wildfires have been on a steady increase for some time, but captured widespread attention in 2019, with more than 50,000 wildfires in the US, and an enormous wildfire in Australia. In the US, the Insurance Information Institute recorded 4.7 million acres of land burned, and in Australia, more than 11 million hectares were burned in southern regions of the continent.
Disasters of this type are difficult to predict and control, forcing governing bodies and the authorities to become reactive to their occurrences. This is where IoT and its connectivity in remote places comes into play.
In 2019, David Alexander, a senior science adviser for DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate, laid out the new program aimed at reducing the frequency and severity of wildfires. This is a joint partnership between DHS and FEMA, focusing on increasing the level of research into wildlands by employing internet-connected devices.
He said, about the use of IoT sensor arrays. “Early fire detection and the ability to track more precisely and in more near real time the propagation of those fires, the movement and growth of those fires is an important aspect. Being able to do that with a variety of sensors, whether it’s deployed in specific locations that are high risk, no different then flood sensors in high-risk stream location, or the unmanned aerial surveillance systems or new Earth observing systems.”
In addition to early detection, the use of the data gathered from these observation systems is translated into actionable recommendations. And if there was any doubt as to the human component, being cut out of the process, the enormous amount of IoT data is unusable on its own. But needs a human operator or AI-powered system to interpret and make sense of the data. Using machine learning and AI, DHS hopes the system will be able to catch false positives as well as make accurate prediction about how wildfires expand over time.
The resulting predictions and data-driven early detection will allow a faster response time and could help officials to evacuate at-risk individuals before the fires grows out of control.
The program was in R&D and readying to move into the field-testing phase, because researchers must verify that the system is able to collect highly accurate data, and relay detailed information on environmental conditions. New information on the progress of the wildfire IoT initiative between DHS and FEMA was released in 2021.
For the latest release of findings from sensors deployed to detect wildfires see the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Article
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