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Austin Energy to Launch Early Wildfire Detection Program Powered by Artificial Intelligence

The Austin, Texas, City Council on Oct. 5 approved a new tool to aid public power utility Austin Energy in wildfire detection and response.

Austin Energy will implement Pano AI technology to provide Austin Energy crews and emergency first responders with up-to-the-minute information to quickly respond to wildfire threats.

The Pano AI system combines advanced hardware, artificial intelligence and other software to form a network of ultra-high-definition, 360-degree cameras atop high vantage points that give first responders an added edge in wildfire detection. The system’s AI technology will continuously scan the Austin Energy service area for any smoke related to a potential wildfire.

Once a fire is spotted, a Pano AI monitoring center verifies the detection, the camera triangulates the exact location of the fire and then Pano AI alerts the 911 call center to activate the closest fire department. The camera’s live stream video feed will also be accessible by the departments to have real-time situational awareness.

Austin Energy’s service area extends past city limits into several surrounding counties, so the camera coverage will extend into those counties, reaching the entire service territory.

Once installed, the Pano AI system will survey nearly all of Travis County, as well as parts of Hays, Bastrop, Williamson and Burnet counties. The early alert system will aid Austin Energy in the determination of a proactive power shut off if needed during a wildfire.

Austin Energy became aware of AI camera technology through working with the Texas Public Power Corridor Committee, a group of public utilities including Austin Energy, the Lower Colorado River Authority, New Braunfels Utilities, and CPS Energy (San Antonio).

Austin Energy budgeted $500,000 annually for a five-year contract for the new technology.

Austin Energy has worked with Austin Fire from the start of this project, which assisted with the technical aspects of the system, including potential camera positioning for maximum coverage. Austin Energy also worked with the surrounding County Emergency Service District Fire Departments, as the final product will also benefit their districts.

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