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Game-changing technology could help detect bushfires

Researchers at Murdoch University’s Harry Butler Institute have partnered with global technology leader Cisco to deliver novel ways to monitor the environment in remote locations.

The monitoring technique provides a wireless solution to observe environmental conditions in areas that lack reliable networks and could pave the way for remote detection of bushfires and other potentially damaging scenarios.

Harry Butler Institute Business Manager Andre deSouza said many remote locations in Western Australia and beyond lacked 3G and 4G internet coverage, posing a challenge for suitable communication solutions.

“We’ve been investigating a cost-effective wireless IoT [Internet of Things] solution known as LoRaWAN, that offers low power, long range, wide area network data sensor technology,” he said.

“The network also succeeds alternatives such as WiFi and Bluetooth, as it doesn’t require cellular network coverage, making it ideal to reach remote areas including national parks.”

Mr deSouza said a pilot program had already successfully moved data between Murdoch University’s South Street campus and the city.

“Our researchers David Murray and Terry Koziniec were able to move environmental data such as temperature, soil moisture and air quality data, but also demonstrated further innovation by moving images over LoRaWAN – something this network wasn’t even built for,” he said.

This innovative and efficient technology solution could provide researchers and emergency personnel the ability to monitor remote locations from anywhere, at any time.”

Senior Lecturer David Murray said the pilot has given researchers the confidence to pursue further technological developments to assist the early detection of smoke and fire.

“We’re now looking at how cost-effective cameras can be developed to monitor for bushfires using artificial intelligence models to identify the risk of smoke and fire, and by sending alerts via a LoRaWAN network,” he said.

This novel approach, coupled with weather sensors and low-resolution images that can be sent over the network for manual validation, could alert emergency workers to fire threats much earlier.”

The network could also be deployed in other diverse scenarios including animal monitoring, with testing previously conducted at Murdoch to monitor the presence of quenda populations at its South Street campus.

Pro Vice Chancellor of the Harry Butler Institute, Professor Simon McKirdy, said the low-cost technology option was an exciting prospect for the future of environmental surveillance.

“It’s excellent to see how this real-time technology paves the way for monitoring networks not only in Western Australia, but globally,” Professor McKirdy said.

LoRaWAN provides an important option to overcome limitations, save time, money and resources and its potential environmental applications, like supporting emergency bushfire personnel and researchers monitoring vulnerable species such as quenda, will be significant.”

“The project further enhances the partnership between Murdoch University and Cisco and strengthens both organisations’ commitment to developing technology that can aid the environment and safeguard the sustainability of the planet,” said Professor McKirdy.

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Posted on:

16 Aug 2022

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