Stopping a Wildfire With a Low-Cost Sensor Network

Stopping a Wildfire with a Low-Cost Sensor Network

Now that the smoke from the November fires that burned huge swaths of Californiahas begun to clear, talk has turned to how to prevent future disasters. ASilicon Valley startup has an idea. Team Lali, part of the Hacking House’s first class of would be entrepreneurs, had a solution—a low cost wireless sensor network—looking for a problem.

Thanks to an opportune talk by a few firefighters, they found one—fast, cheap, and, they hope, effective wildfire detection. I met with Sucre Cando, from Guayaquil, Ecuador, and Nassim Bettach, from Lyon, France, in Fremont, Calif., in November. The air was full of smoke from the raging Camp Fire some 320 kilometers north.

It was hard to breathe, even a little difficult to see, so it was definitely a good day to talk about fire. The two came to Silicon Valley as part of the first class of Hacking House. SigFox, a company that markets a low-power wide area network for connecting IoT devices, launched the program in August.

For each class, SigFox brings in one or two dozen young engineers and business school students who form teams and select problems to address. Most of the problems,submitted by SigFox clients, are along the lines of, “Is there any way we could do this?” SigFox eventually plans to establish 50 Hacking Houses around the world; the second, in Taipei, will welcomeits first class in the first quarter of2019.