Peregian's commercial centre including the IGA and the nearby Digital Hub came close to the fierce September flames.
Peregian's commercial centre including the IGA and the nearby Digital Hub came close to the fierce September flames.

Fighting fire with fired-up geeks

HOPEFULLY when FireTech 2020 hits Peregian Digital Hub in September this year, fierce flames will not be there to welcome these 21st Century firefighting geeks.

Expressions of interest are now going out for this world’s first accelerator program for start-ups working on technologies to predict, prevent, fight or manage bushfire emergencies”.

According to hub director Chris Boden and his team the idea is to assemble 10 teams of experts for a 12 week start-up program to fast-track a range of co-ordinated fire predicting and fighting products on to commercial markets.

“When we think about catastrophic climate risks, we tend to think about rising seas inundating towns and cities,” is the Hub’s online pitch to start-ups.

“But in September 2019, we got a visceral reminder of a more clear and present danger, when our town was almost wiped out by an enormous bushfire.

“The fact that our near miss happened a full four months before the ‘normal’ bushfire season, after an unseasonally long dry spell, is indicative that bush fire conditions are becoming more prevalent and the risk to regional communities is growing in lock-step.”

The hub was in the direct line of the fire storm.

“The fires razed the bushland surrounding Peregian Beach and came within 100m of our Digital Hub – only the heroic efforts of a team of 300 firefighters prevented the raging inferno wiping out hundreds of homes, shops and businesses.

“As tech geeks we of course wanted to understand what role technology played in the emergency response and so we spent time debriefing with key players in the response effort to get an inside view.

“What we learned was that a bushfire emergency involves a set of highly dynamic and complex problem spaces from firefighting to public communications to evacuation management.

“Many of these problem spaces are ripe for innovative solutions that use some of the powerful technology platforms available to us.”

These includes drones, computer vision, predictive analytics, autonomous vehicles, robotics, near-real-time satellite imagery, IOT systems and social media.

“Firetech is not only a relevant subject for us here in Noosa, indeed most regional areas of Australia and many regions in the USA and Europe also face a growing risk of catastrophic bushfires.

“We believe that as these risks grow, it will result in massive global demand for FireTech.”

The Hub said Noosa is an ideal setting to find solutions because:

- The area is particularly susceptible to catastrophic bushfires and this endangers tens of thousands of residents’ lives as well as their homes and assets.

- Its local council recognises the risk of catastrophic bushfires and is committed to being a leader in bushfire preparedness.

- The recent near miss has heightened awareness of the risks to residents, businesses and schools.

- The digital infrastructure in place to support an accelerator program of this nature.

- The local emergency response agency is keen to collaborate with innovation partners who can help them better use technology in their operations.

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