An automated early warning system is alerting firefighters to emerging blazes.

What’s new: South Korean company Alchera trained a computer vision system to monitor more than 800 fire-spotting cameras in Sonoma County, California, the local news channel ABC7 reported.

How it works: Alchera’s Artificial Intelligence Image Recognition (AIIR) spots smoke plumes caught on camera by a portion of California’s Alert Wildfire network. A convolutional neural network flags video frames in which it recognizes smoke plumes, and an LSTM analyzes the time series to confirm the classification. If smoke is confirmed, an alarm alerts an operator at a central monitoring station.

  • The system came online last month. In its first week, it logged over 60 alerts with a false-positive rate of 0.08 percent. It detected one blaze 10 minutes before the first human spotter dialed 9-1-1.
  • If the system proves successful, officials aim to expand its purview to other Alert Wildfire cameras installed throughout the state by government agencies, power companies, and others.

Behind the news: Last year, California firefighters used AI to convert aerial imagery into maps to monitor fires that might endanger Yosemite National Park. Wildfires threaten as many as 4.5 million U.S. homes and have wrought havoc in Australia, Pakistan, Russia, and other countries in recent years.

Why it matters: While other wildfire-detection systems rely on sporadic aerial or satellite photos, this one watches continuously via cameras at ground level, enabling it to recognize hazards early and at lower cost.

We’re thinking: This is one hot application!


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