With the California fire season looming in early summer, Startup Torch Systems today is launching early-stage outdoor fire and wildfire detection sensors that continuously monitor an area for signs of fire along with a free mobile app that immediately notifies users about fires on their property and in surrounding areas.
The $299 device (pictured) provides up to 10 acres of coverage, and incorporates multiple sensors that measure visual, thermal and gas characteristics, the company said. Founded by three Bay Area executives with substantial experience in sensor technology, Torch is hoping to provide a low-cost solution to a process that is currently conducted by a combination of monitoring towers, aerial and satellite photography and optical sensors that require line-of-sight visibility.
Traditional detection equipment often costs $100,000 or more and can’t detect fires until large quantities of smoke appear, the company said. Decentralized equipment that relies on only one or two detection methods is often inaccurate or reports too many false positives.
Torch is one of an emerging class of detection systems called wireless sensor networks that combine multiple detection technologies and don’t require a line of sight. Each device has multiple infrared cameras, visible-light cameras and gas sensors that continually monitor the environment and can detect outdoor fires the size of a car when placed 10 acres apart.
The company said its sensors require no maintenance and use solar power to charge a battery that can run for days on a single charge. Built to last at least five years in all weather conditions, the devices require no specialized equipment to install and can be mounted at human height to a tree, pole or building, the company said.
The sensors continually look for heat, light and smoke using a combination of a thermal camera, spectral analysis, and gas and smoke detection. The devices communicate locally via radio signals and are configured in a mesh network with only one Wi-Fi-connected gateway device required for several hundred sensors.
The mobile app allows for an unlimited number of users, sensors and properties to share one account and sends unique-sounding fire alert notifications to an unlimited number of designated users. There’s also a map that provides real-time sensor data for each device, the probability of an active fire at any time and diagnostic information about device health. The app also can be programmed to ignore objects that may deliver a false positive, such as an outdoor grill or fire pit.
The units are available to pre-order on the company’s website and will be sold through major U.S. retailers and distributors in regions at high fire risk.
Torch was founded by Michael Buckwald, who was formerly chief executive of hand-tracking sensor company Leap Motion Inc. Chief Operating Officer Vasya Tremsin received a 2018 Intel International Science and Engineering award for his development of an early-warning system for low-cost prevention of wildfire proliferation while still in high school. Both witnessed the deadly 2017 Napa Valley fires that burned more than 245,000 acres and destroyed nearly 9,000 buildings. Chief Technical Officer Anton Tremsin is a physics Ph.D. and author of more than 250 scholarly publications.