Across much of the Western United States, warmer temperatures and drier conditions associated with climate change contribute to the increasing severity and frequency of wildfires. When these fires occur in the wildland-urban interface, the potential for the loss of life, property, and infrastructure along with the cost of containment can be astounding. According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, 8.7 million acres burned during the 2018 wildfire season at a cost of $24 billion, making it the most expensive wildfire season on record.
In some cases, early detection could offset the costs and damages associated with wildfires. Lite Devices, a Portland State Business Accelerator company-in-residence, develops remote sensing and Internet of Things technologies designed to equip forest managers, firefighters, and property owners with tools to detect wildfires before they grow out of control.
Lite Devices’ distributed, autonomous wildfire detection system addresses the needs left by other early detection methods including satellite imagery, cameras, and manned watchtowers. Traditional early detection methods can be cost-prohibitive and limited by the need for power sources and weather constraints. Lite Devices’ low-cost, remote sensing technology, meanwhile, detects the signature traits of wildfires (CO2 and other hazardous gasses, temperature, infrared light, global position, and motion) regardless of weather conditions and is self-sufficient through battery power and self-charging. That data is then analyzed by the team’s software platform and mapped using Geographical Information Systems that can then determine whether a fire is present at the sensor’s location.
Lite Devices is Portland State University College of Engineering & Computer Sciences alumnus and graduate students Kai Brooks, Tyler Hull, and Mikhail Mayers and former Cambia Health Solutions’ Innovation Force Division team member, Ioana Brooks. The team developed its technology at Portland State and participated in PSU’s CleanTech Challenge and the InventOR competition. Lite Devices recently received a University Venture Development Grant from PSU to refine their technologies and prepare for initial field testing during a US Forest Service controlled burn.
“The 2018 wildfire season moved us to explore whether we could apply our engineering and programming skills to develop tools that could support the early detection of wildfires,” Kai Brooks, CEO of Lite Devices, said. “When we looked, we found there was a missing piece to the fire protection puzzle. We decided to create that piece and developed technologies that can allow anyone interested in monitoring for wildfires to make more efficient, faster decisions during the crucial early stages of a fire.”
Brooks’ vision is to incorporate Lite Devices’ sensor arrays throughout federal, state, and privately owned forests and in communities on the urban-wildland interface. With increased capacity for early detection firefighters and forest service personnel can act to mitigate the potential risks fires pose to life, property, and resources throughout the West and anywhere in the world where there is the potential for devastating wildfires.