Extreme E, Vodafone Business deploy LPWAN to help tackle wildfires in Sardinia

Cloud-based IoT technology can operate in remote environments where the impacts of climate change have become the hardest to monitor

Just as the qualifying races in the latest part of its all-electric motor racing series get under way in Sardinia, Extreme E has announced that it is working with technology partner Vodafone Business to go beyond racing to support local sustainability projects, with a new Vodafone internet of things (IoT) ultra-early forest fire detection system.

The Extreme E series is hoped to raise awareness of the climate emergency by mixing sport with purpose to inspire change, aiming to leave behind a long-lasting positive impact through its legacy programmes and showcase the performance of all-electric vehicles in extreme conditions, promoting the adoption of electric vehicles in the quest for a lower carbon future for the planet.

Extreme E began its second season in Neom, Saudi Arabia, on 19-20 February 2022 with motorsport giant McLaren joining the action, with American Tanner Foust and New Zealander Emma Gilmour at the wheel of their Odyssey 21 fully electric sports utility vehicle (SUV).

The locations that Extreme E visits are all in some way affected by environmental issues such as desertification, deforestation, melting ice caps, plastic pollution and rising carbon emissions. By holding races in areas that are suffering in an environmental crisis, the organisers hope to raise viewers’ awareness and interest in environmental issues.

The Island X Prix, co-organised by the Automobile Club d’Italia and Regione Sardegna, will also highlight how Sardinia was one of the hardest-hit areas during the wildfires that hit Italy in the summer of 2021. Forest fires devastated forests across the island and elsewhere in the Mediterranean region.

The fires blazed through 20,000 hectares of land, displaced more than 1,000 people and killed about 30 million bees. Wildfires such as these are calculated to be responsible for 20% of total global CO2 emissions and cost $5bn to fight.

Away from the race track, the Extreme E team is embarking on a legacy sustainability project in Italy to restore the historic olive groves lost to wildfires. Together with Vodafone Business, it will undertake a fire prevention campaign within the local communities in the area of Montiferru. As part of this project, Vodafone Business is deploying long-life, low-power wide area network (LPWAN) sensors to quickly detect any fire and promptly send an alert to the authorities.

The low-cost IoT gas sensors operate without the need for cellular coverage and will be installed in trees to detect the smouldering phase, before a fire takes hold, which will preserve forest footprint by shortening reaction times. Vodafone believes that using a mesh gateway to connect to a cloud-based alert centre makes this a much faster-acting solution to the problem of wildfire detection than using cameras or satellites.

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Vodafone Business said the partnership will have many benefits for the local area and the environment, including reduced cost of firefighting, reduced impact to the economy, saving lives and wildlife species, and reduced insurance costs.

“Our purpose is to help the organisations we work with connect for a better future, enabling an inclusive and sustainable digital society,” said Amanda Jobbins, CMO at Vodafone Business. “We are thrilled to bring our technology to the fore to help Extreme E and its partner, Medsea, solve the urgent issue of early detection of wildfires in Sardinia.

“Our cloud-based IoT solutions are world-leading in their detection and communications capabilities, and are able to operate in particularly remote environments where the impacts of climate change have become the hardest to monitor. We believe this move will provide Sardinia’s hardest-hit region with the protection it needs from future devastating fires.”

Ali Russell, chief marketing officer at Extreme E, added: “This collaboration in Sardinia is just the start of what promises to be an innovative partnership with Vodafone Business. Integrating solutions to raise awareness of environmental issues and to combat the climate crisis is so important for our championship, and Vodafone Business has a longstanding history of embedding sustainability practices into its core strategies. 

“This fire prevention initiative builds on our existing legacy work in the region and will provide greater support to the local community and authorities.”

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