Smoke Signals Technology

Below is an article from the Audubon Magazine about new technology used to fight forest fires.

Fire Alarm
A new technology will enable trees to shout “Fire!” The U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have teamed up with a tech company called Voltree to equip trees with wildfire sensors powered by the plants themselves. Currently, solar-powered monitors placed in clearings send data via satellites to a central system. But Voltree’s sensors attach directly to trees and tap them for electricity: A small pH difference between trees and soil creates an imbalance of hydrogen ions, generating voltage. The device sends out hourly temperature and humidity readings; a wireless mesh network of sensors bounces the signal from one wired tree to another until it reaches an unmanned weather station, where it’s beamed up to a satellite, then down to the National Interagency Fire Center in Idaho. If air temperature exceeds a threshold, the sensor will immediately alert officials with a radio warning. Tree-powered sensors may better measure environmental conditions than traditional monitors. “We go underneath the forest canopy, and we’ve seen a dramatic difference in relative humidity and air temperature,” compared with readings in clearings, says Stella Karavas, Voltree’s CEO. A test run in May showed that the existing system seamlessly incorporated Voltree’s technology. The company will deliver the first batch of sensors to the Forest Service this summer.—Alisa Opar


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