Aussie technology provides evidence for bushfire commission

Monday, 07 September, 2009

After the 2009 Victorian bushfires, a company running a small-scale pilot project to monitor bushfire hotspots suddenly found itself propelled onto centre stage. Victorian company EYEfi had installed four monitoring cameras on fire towers in and around Victoria’s Yarra Valley.

What started out as a small field trial of the EYEfi SPARC technology being developed by EYEfi ended up as evidence before the Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission, and footage broadcast on TV and online.

EYEfi’s Managing Director and founder, Simon Langdon, said the images were made even more valuable to the Royal Commission because the imagery and data generated from the remotely controlled cameras provided critical and accurate documentation of the fire’s behaviour and progress.

“The system is designed to ensure cameras work hard and earn their keep, supplying much more than just remote vision.”

Langdon said he believed the system was an Australian first, because it combined video and spatial properties with smart wireless technology in the field.

“A single SPARC camera can report not only the spatial location of a point of interest, but also the street address and other important data, within seconds.

“It really improves our capacity to detect, locate and respond to threats of fire and other major disasters.

“The solution also links into the Victorian Mapping and Address Service for location-context information such as address, vegetation and slope.

“This means users can monitor, anticipate and track the fire’s progress in real time. And they can also tap into more data on areas likely to be affected by an event such as fire.”

The system has been backed by Bruce Thompson, the Director of Spatial Infrastructure Information in Victoria’s Department of Sustainability and Environment.

Thompson said the SPARC spatial video system had real potential. “The seamless integration of video, spatial and mapping resources provides whole new areas of capability, particularly for emergency management.”

The cameras had been installed on existing fire towers before Black Saturday, which included the self-contained, solar-powered NextG wireless EYEfi Green camera installed at a remote unmanned vantage point.

“The fire tower operators had to evacuate their posts late in the afternoon of Saturday the 7th of February, but because our cameras were in place our system was used to monitor and share important information with Melbourne Water well into the night and in following days,” Langdon said.

The cameras can be used for more than monitoring and reporting on bushfires. SPARC has been designed deliberately as a network hosted application service - using existing telecommunications networks.

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