T-Mobile 5G links AI wildfire detection cameras to put out fires faster

There’s a new use for 5G networks: spotting wildfires before they get out of control, a growing concern as climate change makes fires spread faster and burn longer than before.

Startup Pano AI uses a series of cameras that monitor the wilderness and AI algorithms that monitor telltale smoke — an indicator of small fires that could turn into raging wildfires. These images are sent to the startup’s headquarters for human confirmation, and if a fire burns, evidence is sent to customers who might be affected.

While Pano AI used to send evidence photos over 4G LTE networks at slow rates of around 20-30 6-megapixel images per minute, its new partnership with T-Mobile allows it to use the carrier’s 5G network. to send video at 30 frames per second, which is about 90 times more data. Ultimately, delivering evidence to Pano AI customers, which include utility companies, much faster over 5G means faster response from firefighters and potentially crushing large fires before they become dangerous.

“The ultimate problem we’re solving is megafires, and we’re helping fire departments deploy a new strategy that’s gaining traction, which is putting more resources on the fire sooner,” said Sonia Kastner, CEO of Pano AI.

Rather than slowly increasing the number of fire engines and planes flying to drop extinguishing payloads as the fire grows, Fast initial attack is a new strategy to send all these resources immediately as soon as fire is detected. Naturally, having a network of fire detection cameras allows these resources to be quickly directed to the right places.

Pano AI works with a number of utilities, governments, fire departments, forestry companies and private landowners who in turn work with local emergency responders. Its newest and first customer to have a system using T-Mobile’s 5G network is Portland General Electric (PGE), a utility that supplies gas and electricity to 16 million customers around Portland, in Oregon. Pano AI has 20 cameras installed in the forests surrounding the city that provide 10-mile panoramic views, including power lines. This allows PGE to know if fires are heading towards its infrastructure.

T-Mobile recruited Pano AI to be part of its innovation lab alongside other companies leveraging 5G to improve their services, such as Mixhalo, which uses the carrier’s 5G network to transmit concert audio directly to the telephones of members of the public. But Pano AI’s partnership goes further, as it mounts its cameras on T-Mobile’s cell towers, saving months of time and paperwork needed to request and install its equipment on other signal towers or points. of similar view.

Pano AI expects better coverage than the 4G LTE it used after committing to implement T-Mobile’s 5G network with future customer solutions as well. The network will cover even more rural areas with the more than 7,000 additional midband 5G licenses the operator acquired in last week’s spectrum auction. This should cover areas that have challenged Pano AI in the past, such as previous customers who were so far away they needed subscriptions to SpaceX’s Starlink service or even private LTE networks that required new towers to be built – a process expensive that can take up a lot of valuable time to get up and running, Kastner said.

“And wildfires don’t wait,” Kasner said.

While Pano AI’s algorithms only detect smoke at the moment, its cameras capture a lot of data that the startup’s clients want to analyze for other fire safety indicators, like brush building that could fuel fires. of forest. In the future, Pano AI’s technology could be advanced to spot indicators of other weather-related calamities such as floods or hurricanes, Kastner said.

Currently, Pano AI has more than a dozen customers across five US states and two Australian states. They are primarily based in the western United States, although the startup is in talks with potential customers in other regions that also suffer from more wildfires, such as Florida and Tennessee. 5G will help Pano AI develop its technology and services.

“5G actually reduces the cost of prediction, which also increases the scale of prediction,” said John Saw, executive vice president of advanced and emerging technologies at T-Mobile.

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