Wildfire Alert System — A New SaaS Challenge

Yoonjin Choi

April 6, 2021

April 6, 2021

Wildfire Alert System

If you’ve been following Alchera for the past year or so, you would have heard of our ‘Wildfire Alert System,’ proudly named as ‘AIIR.’ A year or so into development, our Wildfire Alert System has started its new challenge.
The Wildfire Alert System is a solution that detects the early stages of fire from real-time video with Alchera’s VADT technology, based on AI algorithms for smoke detection. For more information, read about ‘How Alchera Entered the Wildfire Mitigation AI Business’ 2 years ago.

Our New Journey

In March 2021, Alchera launched our wildfire detection solution, and thus a new challenge arose. The contract was signed with Sonoma County, in California, USA, which is one of the largest wildfire prone areas in the region. This is also meaningful in that we have commercialized an AI-based wildfire detection solution as a SaaS model, the first such instance in the world.

SaaS: Software As A Service

Alchera has been applying AI technology mainly through an on-premise business model, however starting from 2020, we started to expand our technology applications as a SaaS subscription model. Since is 1) easy to install, 2) allows for simpler maintenance, 3) and has a low cost entry barrier, SaaS models meet our goal to make AI accessible in daily life. Starting from face recognition based access control systems, we exported one such solution to SanPedro Square Market in the US in May of 2020. This was our first accomplishment with SaaS service commercialization, and the start of our journey in SaaS solutions.
In August of 2020 Sonoma County invited the public to “respond to a Request for Proposals (RFP) for consulting services to develop and deliver product(s) utilizing state-of-the-art technologies in machine learning (artificial intelligence) to provide early warning alerts of pending wildfire events.”
In October of 2017, a series of destructive wildfires blazed through Northern California, including the Tubbs fire which burned 36,807 acres from Eastern Napa County to Santa Rosa, in which Sonoma County lost 6,000 structures and 21 lives. Sonoma County opened RFP to the public primarily in response to this event, as the fire was not detected until it was already too late. This RFP was the perfect fit for Alchera to test and commercialize our wildfire alert system, which had already been in development prior to the RFP opening.
In January 2021, Sonoma Country officially selected Alchera as the contract winner after reviewing the submitted proposals. According to Sonoma County, “Of the 5 competing companies, Alchera was ranked 40% higher than all other competitors in technology, performance, and use of AI”. This accomplishment is very meaningful in the sense that our AI technology protects humans and properties for a safer society. This also achieved a second SaaS export and paved the way for economies of scale to be realized.

Service Improvements and Preparations

Alchera had 2 months from January to March to improve the pre-existing system before the official service launch to Sonoma County.

The most important points that we considered for improvement were to :

1. Lower the burden when dealing with large sever traffic

2. Improve the UX for finding previous fire detections, and

3. Mobile optimization

Lowering the Server Traffic and Improving UX

One issue was that there wasn’t any sorting/filtering function for the system before. Ever since the cameras were first connected, the log record of previous detections accumulated for more than a year, and therefore could be scrolled infinetly. This put a burden on the server that manages the data and could be seen as a burden from the user’s perspective as well. Since the system is now open to the public, it was essential to reduce the burden on the server to withstand the traffic.

So, we grouped logs of the last 72 hours in the Recent tab, and logs before that are grouped in the History tab. A date function has been added so that the logs can be searched by setting a period using a calendar. The added advantage is that you do not have to send a lot of data in the default state, and you can sort the log only for the dates you are interested in.

Mobile Optimization

The Wildfire Alert system is a solution that needs to be accessible from various devices as it is connected to the real-time camera and can be checked at any time. One of the important features is accessibility, especially on mobile devices. The previously applied UI and UX were not considering mobile, so when the alert was received by email or SMS, it was difficult to check it immediately from your mobile device. To solve this problem, we added a column drop type mobile UI.

PC UI vs. Mobile Optimized UI

What’s Next

There are quite a few challenges left for us in this project, which runs until March 2023. In the future, we need to resolve issues related to the time zone of additional cameras, add a login function to manage each customer account, and consider a UX that suits all user scenarios. Alchera’s Wildfire alert system is a challenge that breaks the existing framework of testing domestically first and exporting proven technologies. We test and prove our technology starting from the US market.

Our Sonoma service officially started on March 17th at 11:00 PM KST, and in commemoration of this, our CEO treated lunch to all employees on March 18th. With a great burden of responsibility, the Wildfire Detection Product team will diligently design a product for a better tomorrow.

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