ITP show: Epimetheus, trees will tell you when they’re on fire

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ITP show: Epimetheus, trees will tell you when they’re on fire

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John Dimatos’s Epimetheus – A network of fire detecting sensors that transmit crucial data in real time.

Epimetheus is the feasibility prototype for a larger environmental framework that emphasizes the ability to monitor a site in real time.

Designed for deployment in public and private spaces by loosely organized groups of citizens, Epimetheus uses technology as a DIY layer on the physical environment that the citizen-scientist can deploy. By design, groups of citizens will be able to add new nodes to a pre-existing network using publicly available manuals, schematics and configuration settings. Once fully registered, an individual node will be viewable as part of a layer in Google Earth. Once viewable, the node as well as the entire network can be monitored remotely by the original group or individual as well as affiliated interest groups and local leaders.

Epimetheus uses a multi tiered approach to the communication of environmental information. Designed to accept multiple sensor technology such as UV, infrared, and smoke, the sensor units use advanced mesh networking and solar power to achieve grid autonomy. The gateway units are designed to aggregate data on the edge of the sensor networks from the deployed nodes in the forest. Protected from the harsh environmental conditions, the gateway units have access to the power grid and a cellular network. Utilizing off the shelf consumer phones, the gateway unit sends critical updates in the form of SMS texting to a third tier of the system: individual users, citizen action groups, and publicly viewable databases.

The act of localized deployment and open monitoring of a site can create a long lasting effect that transcends saving forests: Empowered civilians with a real sense of custody over a specific site.

4 thoughts on “ITP show: Epimetheus, trees will tell you when they’re on fire

  1. Max says:

    This seems like a well-meaning plan with a fatal drawback i.e. what happens if there *is* a fire – a number of the devices will be destroyed, leaving all manner of melted toxic nasties in the area. And if they’re designed to survive the fire, how much will each sensor-array cost?

    You can do the same job with high-definition satellite imaging, and it doesn’t need a hundred old cell-phones to be taped to a forest to let you know the trees are on fire.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I think this idea will work very well for many things. A few piles of melted plastic in the woods is and extremely small price to pay for an early waning system for wild fires. The damage that burning a Zigbee node, solar cell, few batteries, CPU, transceiver, antenna and box is truly “A Mote in God’s Eye” compared to the damage a wildfire can do in a minute or two. Every minute of waring you get at the start of the a fire can save hours of fighting it.

    I have been looking for 20 minutes for a way to contact John. I have some ideas for ways to interface the sensors to the internet once the reach a collection that uses SlIP off the shelf public domain code and simple UDP sockets that are platform independent.

    I have used this method a few times over the internet, UHF/VHV radios, Cellphone modems, Satellite links, hard wire pairs and dial up modems with very little change in the code.

    It can be done in a very flexible way so any node can do anything you wist to allow it to do. If done right there are almost no limitations imposed on the system by choices made in the communications or location of the node. Of course the physical capability of a node keep an 8051 out at the end of the network in the field from doing things a laptop connected to the Zigbee network in the same place can do.

    It is very low over head and can run on a less than one dollar 8051 chip it the UDP isn’t implemented until the data is on a more powerful CPU.

    I think that SLIP has been implemented to work with Zigbee wit no problems I would have to make some calls to find out. SLIP makes a very easy to use wrapper for any data no matter what it contains for shipping over any number of protocols and unwrapped on the other end and still be in the exact state it was in when it was wrapped up in the fist place.

    One has to add their own addressing and error checking to the packet the warp up up in SLIP so they aren’t locked in to any protocol at all and it is easy to make an open ended protocol that can be added onto later.

    My email address is
    if anyone one wishes to discus this.


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