Preventing and Controlling Forest Fires with ZigBee®IEEE® 802.15.4 by cgz40019


Gonzalo Delgado Huitrón

Preventing and Controlling Forest Fires
with ZigBee®/IEEE® 802.15.4
Detecting Forest Fires with                                        being used in many places around the world, but it requires a
                                                                   significant manpower investment that must always be on alert.
ZigBee®/IEEE® 802.15.4
In 2007, more than 800 square miles of California forests          Taking advantage of new, low-cost technology, a low-power
were consumed by fire, resulting in tremendous damage              wireless sensor network can detect a fire nearly the moment it
to the environment and the loss of a significant portion of        starts. Time is crucial when combating forest fires because the
the biosphere. Forests are one of Earth’s primary air filters,     wind can quickly push a small fire into a major conflagration.
scrubbing the atmosphere of CO2, a greenhouse gas and              A sensor network can provide the early warning necessary to
contributor to global warming. Fire, whether started by natural    allow firefighting resources to converge on the source of the fire
causes, cigarettes, bonfires, agricultural techniques or any       as soon as possible.
other reason, is contributing to massive losses of forest
                                                                   By definition, a sensor network is a set of nodes that
land, and it is time to use technology to help Mother Nature
                                                                   periodically reports data to a coordinator for processing. In a
preserve those lands.
                                                                   forest, hundreds of low-cost, low-power smoke detecting nodes
Today modern technologies, such as infrared scanners and           could be distributed within wireless transmission range of the
satellite photos, are being used to detect fires, but they have    central, or coordinator, node (see Figure 2).
their drawbacks. Satellites are complex and very expensive
                                                                   The coordinator node would gather information from the nearby
while infrared scanners have problems with thick vegetation
                                                                   sensor nodes through a ZigBee compliant wireless network,
and blocked visibility. The old “watch tower” technique is still

process the data and, if any smoke is detected, send out an                                   easily implemented. It contains an ARM7™ core and consumes
alert using a larger wireless network, such as 3G or GPRS.                                    only about 20mA in transmission and reception.
This alert could be sent directly to the firefighting station
                                                                                              The MC1322X ZigBee Platform in Package™ (PiP) includes a
with not only fire location information but also the time of the
                                                                                              dual 8-channel, 12-bit analog-to-digital converter that can be
detection. Similar solutions have been implemented in Italy
                                                                                              interfaced with several sensors to gather different data. The
with great success.
                                                                                              network system would only need an added 24 MHz crystal and
A feasibility study must be made to determine where each node                                 antenna since other elements, such as baluns and switches,
should be placed for optimal coverage. Since the ZigBee/IEEE                                  are already included in the package. The versatility of the highly
802.15.4 protocol defines a MAC address for each node, this                                   integrated MC1322X PiP could also provide the “forest watch”
could be correlated to a fixed GPS point to determine the                                     nodes with additional functionality to assist the firefighters
location of the affected zone. One great advantage of using the                               by gathering meteorological information, such as humidity,
ZigBee protocol is that a mesh network can be implemented                                     temperature and precipitation. As an added benefit, forest
to extend the network’s range, using routers instead of                                       watch nodes could even function as emergency stations, in
coordinators.                                                                                 case a person gets lost in the woods.

Battery life is not a problem, since ZigBee devices can operate                               According to the paper “Estimates of CO2 from fires in the
up to 20 years between battery replacement. If additional                                     United States: implications for carbon management,” U.S.
power is required for the external components, such as power                                  fires release about 290 million metric tons of CO2 a year, the
amplifiers, smoke sensors or emergency lights, a battery                                      equivalent of 4 to 6 percent of the nation’s carbon dioxide
charger could be implemented with solar cells.                                                emissions from fossil fuel burning. Much of this could be
                                                                                              avoided by using simple wireless sensor networks, such as
With a low power IEEE 802.15.4 system-on-chip solution, such
                                                                                              that described in this article2.
as the MC1322X (see Figure 3), a wireless network could be

1, “Fire Information – National Fire News”, National Interagency Fire Center, February 22nd 2008
2 Wiedinmyer, C., and J.C. Neff. 2007. Estimates of CO2 from Fires in the United States: Implications for Carbon Management. Carbon Balance and Management

  Gonzalo Delgado Huitrón is part of the Wireless Connectivity Operation in Mexico. He is a software engineer with expertise in SMAC,
  BeeStack™, Synkro and 8/32-bit microcontrollers.

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