Harnessing AI and IoT: A Significant Achievement in the Frontline Battle Against Forest Fires

Beyond ecological disasters impacting ecosystems, communities, and economies, the exacerbation of forest fires due to climate change has allowed technology to emerge as a crucial ally in the fight against this growing global threat. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) are radically transforming the prevention and management of forest fires, from forecasting to real-time response. These technologies not only enhance early detection but also revolutionize resource planning, promising a future where global collaboration can mitigate the devastating impacts of these natural disasters

Forest fires have intensified due to climate change, becoming an imminent global threat. Recent events in various regions of Colombia over the past few days serve as a clear example of this situation. It is a problem that causes ecological disasters, posing a growing threat to forest ecosystems due to the loss of wildlife, to high-risk rural areas, and also due to its significant economic repercussions. Moreover, it increases pressure on overloaded critical services such as health and safety, forestry, natural disasters, emergency relief agencies, and rural planning.

For instance, the United States faces an annual cost of up to $893 billion as a consequence of these disasters, affecting insurance payments, real estate values, and income losses. Other countries like Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, Canada, and some Southern European countries such as Spain, Greece, and particularly Portugal, are highly susceptible to forest fires, especially during hot and dry periods, contributing significantly to the disproportionate increase in carbon emissions.

The severity and unpredictability of these forest fires pose challenges to traditional firefighting strategies. A United Nations report published in 2022 predicts a potential 50% increase in such fires by 2100, emphasizing the global impact and the urgency of having advanced tools and innovative solutions that reshape how these destructive events can be detected, monitored, and managed more effectively.

The increasing frequency and severity of forest fires are driving technology to be at the forefront of prevention efforts. Satellite systems, AI algorithms, and IoT applications are progressively playing an essential role in addressing multifaceted challenges, from early detection to proactive management and global collaboration in the face of these incidents.

Innovative approaches from Firetech startups

In Canada, where the last wildfire season exceeded historical records, a shift in extinguishing strategies occurred. In Alberta, for example, AI is being used as a fundamental complement to traditional methods for firefighting, with a global and proactive approach. Forecasting and prediction demonstrate the potential of AI and IoT to revolutionize resource planning, improve decision-making, and reduce the impact of these devastating fires on communities and ecosystems

The rise of cutting-edge technology solutions is evident in various firefighting strategies worldwide. The integration of technology with firefighting efforts is on the rise, from IoT-enabled cameras equipped with AI systems searching for smoke to satellite constellations detecting fires from space.

Labeled under the genre of “Firetech,” several startups have leveraged innovative approaches around AI and IoT to address this crisis. A fundamental example is the German company OroraTech, a pioneer in AI predictive technology, offering a comprehensive intelligent solution for the spread of forest fires, including risk assessment, early detection, real-time monitoring, and damage analysis using data from over 20 mini satellites in low Earth orbit, equipped with thermal infrared sensors for rapid information transmission.

The IoT and AI capabilities of these satellites consider factors such as vegetation, humidity levels, weather forecasts, elevation data to enhance understanding of how these fires could spread, and even fuel availability, assisting agencies in firefighting practices and strategic resource allocation.

Applying AI and IoT in Various Firefighting Strategies

While emerging companies like Overstory, Rain, and Sensa IO Tech (in the Brazilian tropical forests) use AI and IoT for risk analysis using satellite data and autonomous drones foridentification and control of forest fires, California-based Pano AI develops one of the most effective projects by using cameras on mobile phone towers atop mountains. These cameras combine data from government meteorological satellites with AI algorithms, allowing real-time detection of fire presence.

Another example is the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, CAL FIRE, the leading firefighting agency in the state, which has been actively incorporating AI and IoT systems into its forest firefighting management strategies. It uses various technologies and collaborates with tech companies, research institutions, and other entities to analyze data from over a thousand mountaintop cameras, improving early detection and responses. The idea of expanding this system to the entire state of California aims to quickly alert emergency command centers.

The use of these technologies alongside machine learning algorithms is central to some global collaborations, such as the FireAId project. Initiated in January 2022 as part of the World Economic Forum for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, with support from Microsoft, Google, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Scale AI, Conservation International, the Inter-American Development Bank, and NASA (with its Earth Science Data System – ESDS), among many others. These collaborations show how promising AI interventions can be scaled and replicated in different geographical areas.

The facilitating role of governments can be vital to align and support these efforts to enhance forest fire prediction. The project, backed by industry giants like Microsoft and Google, ensures that the tools are globally accessible. Microsoft’s AI models, for example, help identify patterns and provide a probability map to guide resource allocation for first responders. They focus on predicting fire-prone areas by analyzing historical data, climate, and geospatial information.

AI, the Powerful Ally

Engagement in these initiatives by industry giants such as Microsoft and Google ensures that tools are globally accessible. Microsoft’s AI models, for example, aid in identifying patterns and provide a probability map to guide the allocation of resources for first responders. These models focus on predicting fire-prone areas through the analysis of historical data, climate, and geospatial information.

On another front, the GovLab grants program aims to minimize risk and maximize results, optimizing resource allocation to reduce costs associated with unnecessary firefighting resource allocation. This project is part of the company AltaML, which validates the commercial value of each case and ensures the necessary conditions for successfully implementing and developing AI and IoT-driven solutions

The importance and promise of collaboration efforts involving professionals in the field, harnessing big data such as maps, satellite images, climate patterns, and even social media, coupled with the integration of AI and IoT into end-to-end fire management systems, are crucial for improving early mitigation of forest fires.

However, challenges persist, especially in ensuring equitable access to AI tools in regions with limited resources. Therefore, Microsoft’s plan to offer its AI tool as an open-source solution emphasizes the need for broader access and collaboration among firefighting agencies worldwide. As the world faces this growing forest fire crisis, AI offers hope for a future where proactive measures can mitigate the devastating impacts of these natural disasters.

With over 15 years of experience in IoT solutions and now in AI, AZLOGICA®, a Colombian multinational with a presence in ten countries in Europe and America, and equally committed to Sustainable Development, has a range of digital tools offering solutions for the management, optimization, and control of various variables, including meteorological conditions by zones and early detection, crucial in solutions leading to the prevention and control of forest fires.

This integration of AZLOGICA® AI and IoT technology develops monitoring solutions with distribution maps, real-time automation and optimization of risk factors, fire or smoke detection and damage analysis, multimodal data acquisition of both the event and of adjacent environments and actors such as mayors, communities, specialized forces such as firefighters and police, among others. Analysis with online control panels that, with key information based on the data collected, generate intelligent reports, and finally the use of AI for prediction, including GPTs and natural language to facilitate access to decision-making and early actions that allow to the authorities in charge of developing their best strategy.

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