Rogers leverages AI and SpaceX technology to fight wildfires in British Columbia

Rogers announced today that it is using SpaceX’s Swarm service, which provides low-bandwidth satellite connectivity to IoT devices, in order to deploy satellite-connected sensors to better predict wildfires in remote areas of British Columbia without wireless networks.

The telco announced that it will also equip network towers with California-based Pano AI’s cameras that can detect smoke in up to a 20-kilometre range. The AI cameras will be located on wireless towers in the province near Fort St. James, Smithers and Chetwynd.

Pano AI camera station

Deployment of the technologies will be taking place in the coming weeks, the company said.

The real-time information obtained from the satellite-connected sensors and tower cameras will then be shared with the University of British Columbia (UBC) and BC Wildfire Service (BCWS) to monitor key wildfire indicators.

“These new technologies will expand the reach and capabilities of our existing network of 5G IoT sensors, giving us real-time data that can provide the foundation for an early warning system for wildfires and improve public safety,” said Mathieu Bourbonnais, assistant professor, UBC Okanagan.

Chief executive officer (CEO) of Pano AI, Sonia Kastner, added that the reach of Rogers 5G network will allow the company’s AI-powered cameras to “to detect, confirm and pinpoint new fire ignitions within minutes in some of the most remote parts of British Columbia.”

The announcement comes as Canada experienced its worst wildfire season in recorded history, with more than 15.2 million hectares of land scorched, blazes still burning in B.C. and evacuation efforts still ongoing.

“Climate change is a global issue that requires urgent action. Communities across the country are facing the effects of unprecedented wildfires,” said Tony Staffieri, chief executive officer, Rogers. “We are proud to put our national network and technology partnerships to work to better detect fires and support Canadian first responders.”

The company also said it is donating satellite phones to the British Columbia Search and Rescue Association (BC SRA) to support first responders. This builds on Rogers’ existing partnerships with SpaceX and Lynk Global, announced earlier this year, to bring texting to phones in remote locations.

CEO of B.C. SRA, Dwight Yochim, said that the donation of the satellite phones is a “tremendous gift” that will positively impact the safety of  3,400 professional search and rescue volunteer members.

With this announcement, Rogers joins a host of companies, and the government of Canada, who have been ramping up efforts to improve wildfire response.

Microsoft also detailed, in a blog on Monday, its one year old collaboration with the government of Alberta and AltaML, an Edmonton-based company, to help wildfire-prone regions. 

Through this collaboration, Alberta Wildfire, the province’s forest firefighting agency, has been using AltaML’s wildfire occurrence prediction, powered by Microsoft Azure Machine Learning, to analyze tens of thousands of data points to predict the next day’s risk of a new wildfire by region, with enough precision to predict the time the fire will ignite.

A proof of concept completed by AltaML found that the model can help Alberta Wildfire optimize resources and save C$2 million to C$5 million in annual operating costs.

Read the full Microsoft blog here.

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Ashee Pamma
Ashee Pamma
Ashee is a writer for ITWC. She completed her degree in Communication and Media Studies at Carleton University in Ottawa. She hopes to become a columnist after further studies in Journalism. You can email her at [email protected]

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