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It is not just the world’s climate that is changing. Our entire environment is undergoing constant change. In particular, natural disasters such as extreme weather events, forest fires or floods pose major challenges to us as a society. Ecosensors has developed innovative solutions for predicting and preventing such events in order to take effective measures. This can save lives and prevent damage.
Ecosensors was founded approximately three years ago by Gunter Schobesberger and his colleague Marcus Pichler. With a long-standing friendship and a shared passion for innovative technologies, Gunter and Marcus embarked on a journey to leverage the power of the Internet of Things (IoT) and sensor technology to address critical challenges.
Through his previous professional involvement in working for an organisation in the field of disaster relief and due to his close connections with the Austrian weather service, Gunter had developed an understanding of the intricacies of environmental data collection.
As climate change intensifies and droughts become more common, the issue is no longer limited to countries such as southern Spain or Italy - similar conditions are emerging in other, more northern regions. Gunter highlighted the recent headline-grabbing forest fires in Canada. The effects were also felt as far away as Central Europe, where the sky was filled with smoke for several days.
Various approaches have been proposed to deal with forest fires. One notable example from another company is the use of olfactory sensors in forests, basically detecting the smell of smoke from fires. This is also important, but early detection of hazardous conditions to prevent fires from starting in the first place seems to be even more important. Ecosensors decided to focus its efforts on risk assessment.
Normally, the provincial forestry directorates in Austria issue forest fire ordinances based on specific parameters. This is done in consultation between the experts and the Austrian weather service. By evaluating factors such as temperature trends, these entities must collaborate to evaluate the situation in a given region and make their decisions.
However, the existing process relies heavily on the experience and expertise of forestry experts and field staff. Ecosensors recognised the need to enhance this system by incorporating actual live data from sensors. They developed a reliable and accurate method of calculating the forest fire risk in real-time, achieving a level of precision previously unattainable.
Partnership with Decentlab for Cutting-Edge Sensor Technology
Ecosensors chose sophisticated products from Swiss manufacturer Decentlab, specifically the Decentlab DL-ATM41-001 Eleven Parameter Weather Station, the Decentlab DL-TRS12-001 Soil Moisture and Temperature Sensor and the Decentlab DL-SMTP-001 Soil Moisture and Temperature Profile.
As a partner of the Austrian Weather Service, Ecosensors specialises in maintaining high quality and performance standards. Decentlab’s high-end sensors are competitively priced, especially when compared to the cost of conventional weather stations from national weather services.
Ecosensors carried out thorough evaluations and comparisons, including calibration against standard weather stations provided by the Austrian weather service. These evaluations confirmed that Decentlab's sensors consistently produced highly accurate and reliable data, while the smaller size and lower cost of Decentlab's sensors made them a compelling option for Ecosensors' forest project.
Data processing and calculation of the Fire Risk Index is performed using Node-RED - or Cake-RED as it is known as part of the Datacake platform.
By setting up weather stations equipped with Decentlab sensors at various locations, Ecosensors collect meteorological data, including temperature, humidity, precipitation, wind speed and lightning activity. Using this data and applying an internationally recognised algorithm, they can calculate the forest fire index, the so-called Fine Fuel Moisture Code (FFMC), which indicates the flammability of the ground litter and other cured fine fuels on the forest floor.
Data from the sensors is received via LoRaWAN technology, a long-range, low-power wireless protocol. Ecosensors is currently using RAK gateways with a power supply and fixed internet connection in its pilot project, but sees potential for projects in remote areas where power availability may be limited, by including models that are solar powered and offer cellular or even satellite communications.
Ecosensors chose Datacake as their data visualisation platform of choice due to several key factors. They found that Datacake offered numerous templates specifically designed for Decentlab sensors, which greatly simplified the integration process. While other visualisation platforms offered similar functionality, Ecosensors found Datacake to be more user-friendly, even for non-technical users.
Ecosensors also recognised the importance of data security and customer concerns about data storage and privacy. By using platforms within the DACH region (Germany, Austria, Switzerland), they maintained a sense of consistency and trust as the data remained within the same geographical area. This approach fostered customer confidence and ensured a consistent and aligned external perception of their data management practices.
Throughout its projects, Ecosensors has overcome a variety of challenges, such as finding the optimal sensor placement in the forest, ensuring data quality, and dealing with issues such as power and communications in remote areas. During that process, the company has developed exceptional expertise and worked with reputable companies such as Decentlab and Datacake. Ecosensors highlights Datacake’s crucial role in implementing their forest fire risk assessment project, enabling them to effectively monitor and assess risk. With its strong foundation and proven expertise, Ecosensors is well positioned to expand its projects and make a lasting impact in the field of environmental monitoring and risk assessment.
While their forest fire risk assessment project was initially a demo project, Ecosensors is in discussions with relevant stakeholders to evaluate its success and potential expansion. They have seen interest from districts and have expressed a desire to gradually develop and expand their system beyond the province of Salzburg.
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