Early wildfire detection system wins Analog Devices hackathon

9 May 2022

From left: Emma O'Donovan, Sinead O'Dowd, Enda Kilgarriff, Adam Fahy and Souvik Kundu at the Analog Devices hackathon. Team member Brian McCarthy is not present. Image: Analog Devices

The winning team designed a mesh network of nodes that can be used to detect the potential and presence of a fire, in order to improve firefighter response times.

An early wildfire detection system has won the fifth annual Analog Devices Hackathon, which aimed to see how the semiconductor company’s technology could help tackle the climate emergency.

A total of 70 people from across Analog Devices’ three sites in Ireland gathered for the two-day event last week to research and design innovative ideas to mitigate the climate emergency and address real-world challenges.

10 teams pitched their ideas to judges on the second day of the event, with concepts such as a wireless data centre management system for energy reduction, a methane capture-to-energy system, a smart microgrid system for efficient energy use in local communities, and a smart occupancy detection tool to improve heating system efficiency.

“We were impressed with the creativity of the solutions and how the teams took the time to identify the issues first,” Analog Devices hackathon project manager Donal McAuliffe said. “We were particularly struck by the passion and motivation from all participants. The theme of climate action resonated with everyone.”

The winning team of six impressed the judges with their pitch, which went beyond the technology focus and set out a sustainable business model through annual subscriptions.

Adam Fahy, Sinead O’Dowd, Souvik Kundu, Enda Kilgarriff, Brian McCarthy and co-op student Emma O’Donovan’s idea focused on detecting and reducing the spread of wildfires.

Fahy said the team designed a mesh network of nodes that can be distributed around a forest to detect the potential and presence of a fire. An online dashboard would then allow forest owners to detect areas at risk in real time, which would allow firefighters to get to the right location at a much faster pace.

“If a fire is detected in two minutes it will require 10 litres of water to extinguish; if detected in 10 minutes it can take 1,000 litres,” McCarthy said. “The amount of water required to extinguish wildfires is another climate change issue.”

Fahy said the team focused on this issue due to the wildfires in California, which are becoming “more deadly and destructive” each year. He added that it can take between two and four hours for firefighters to reach a wildfire using current detection methods.

“By this time, a fire has significantly increased in size and takes weeks to get under control,” Fahy said.

Analog Devices now plans to examine the feasibility of developing this early wildfire detection model for future deployment.

“This product brings a technological solution to a very real unpredictable problem that we live with each summer in Spain,” Analog Devices fellow Santiago Iriarte said.

“With weather patterns getting more extreme, a product like this could position Analog Devices as a world leader in driving climate action.”

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Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic