Only You (and RFID) Can Prevent Forest Fires!

A ZigBee system is being used in Chinese forest to prevent fires

Smokey the Bear may have said, “Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires,” but little did he know at the time, that RFID would be able to as well. According to a recent article from the RFID Journal, a ZigBee-based sensor system in the Qingyuan Forest in southern China, can detect environmental changes in the air and alert park officials if a wildfire occurs.

The solution, a pilot of the Early Stage Wildfire Detection and Prediction Sensor Network system, also includes a thermal imaging camera for visual confirmation that a wildfire taking place.

Forestry staff worked with Insight Robotics to install battery-powered wireless sensor tags across a 9.3 square-mile forest, in addition to a thermal-imaging camera. The tags create a mesh network throughout the forest, transmitting data to a server located in the forest near the thermal imaging camera.

Data is transmitted back to the server every five minutes with unique identifiers. Should one of the nodes be destroyed in the event of a fire, other tags will transmit data around the lost node. Built-in temperature, humidity, gas and infrared sensors regularly, and humidity data can be used to judge the level of risk of a fire occurring.

The system was tested by forestry staff, who set a fire in a bucket located within the forest’s mesh-network coverage area. From there, the tag issued a wildfire alert to the Qingyuan Fire Control Center within three minutes, allowing operators to detect the fire’s location and send an aerial unit to control the fire.

Currently, the system is being explored in other forests throughout Asia. In the future, the system will look to send data to a remote location using a cellular connection, eliminating the need for a computer on the premises.

While the system is still being tested, I can only imagine future implications of it. I could eventually see systems like this in place in parks, businesses and even homes, making a huge impact on fire departments everywhere. Share your thoughts by commenting below, or on our Facebook or twitter pages.