In the summer of 2021, wildfires devastated forests across the Mediterranean region, and in Italy alone, they blazed through 20,000 hectares of land, displaced more than 1,000 people and killed around 30 million bees. To prevent such damage occurring in Spain, Vodafone and internet of things (IoT) firm Dryad Networks have entered into a collaboration to enable large-scale deployment of a wildfire detection service across the country.
Berlin-based Dryad describes itself as an environmental IoT startup, and its stated mission is to develop a large-scale IoT network that allows public and private forest owners to monitor, analyse and protect the world’s largest, most remote forests. In addition, it claims to be the only provider of solar-powered environmental sensor networks for ultra-early wildfire detection and forest monitoring.
Working with Vodafone, Dryad will bring its wireless environmental sensor network to Spain, supporting the “ultra-early” detection of wildfires across the country. The system is designed to operate in forest environments where the impacts of climate change are more difficult to monitor, and could reduce the percentage of area devastated by fire, which, according to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), rose in Spain to almost 310,000 hectares in the past year.
Spain’s forest ecosystems occupy more than 26 million hectares, of which almost 15 million are wooded, representing 29% of the national territory. Wildfires such as those affecting the Mediterranean region in 2021 are calculated to be responsible for 20% of total global CO2 emissions and cost $5bn to fight.
The wireless network of environmental, solar-powered gas sensors is based on the open standard for long-range IoT networks. Its distributed architecture enables large-scale deployment in areas without network coverage, and the data collected on the network is processed by machine learning tools embedded in the sensor and cloud-based data tools for analysis, monitoring and alerting.
The collaboration aims to enable an immediate response to fire incidents, with wildfires detected in minutes and alerts sent directly to the appropriate firefighting resource.
The system will use three elements: solar-powered gas sensors, which are installed in trees and can detect a fire during the smouldering stage; mesh gateways with broad-spectrum modulation technology, to give “coverage” to gas sensors and aggregate data from deployed sensors; and monitoring and communications systems with connectivity, which collate the information collected and send it to the cloud that manages the monitoring system.
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Vodafone will provide the communications infrastructure to support Dryad’s Silvanet wireless network of sensors. The security services company, meanwhile, will be responsible for installing and maintaining the sensors and monitoring them from its operations centre.
Silvanet is built to adapt to any type of forest environment, which is essential for the market as it does this by using artificial intelligence embedded in the gas sensors to learn and identify the different “smells” of a forest. This enables the sensors to detect a fire in its early smouldering stages when the fire is still easy to put out. The system can also operate in wooded areas without network coverage.
To further test the application of this offering, the security services company will soon complete the first pilot in Spain, carried out with one of its large industrial customers. The aim is to incorporate the service into its portfolio quickly for other private clients and public administrations.
As a result, the partners are confident the large-scale deployment of this technology across Spain’s forested areas to complement camera and satellite-based detection systems could drastically reduce wildfire detection times and make tackling fires in the country easier.
“We are very pleased to be working with Vodafone to bring our wildfire detection technology to Spain, a country that suffers greatly from forest fires,” said Carsten Brinkschulte, CEO and co-founder of Dryad. “Our Silvanet solution represents a breakthrough in wildfire detection due to its ability to detect fires within minutes, and we look forward to further deployments in the region.”
Daniel Barallat, director of IoT at Vodafone Spain, added: “Our cloud-based IoT solutions are world leaders for their detection and communication capabilities, and help optimise the cost of firefighting, minimising wildfires’ impact on forest areas, and helping to protect thousands of lives and preserve natural ecosystems.”