01. March 2010
“Don’t call me a camera”
Forest fires destroy ecosystems and timberland, settlements,and inevitably people’s lives. Moreover they release every year more carbon dioxide than global motor traffic. Utilising the algorithms of the German Aerospace Centre (DLR) the Adlershof technology centre IQ Wireless has therefore develop “FireWatch”. A different form of spreading destruction, namely the infection of entire production halls with computer viruses and malware, is the specialised field of the Adlershof company Innominate Security Technologies AG. True to the old saying “There’s no smoke without fire” FireWatch can identify smoke clouds over ten metres in diameter from ten kilometres away and so can report fires while they are starting. A burning tree, explained IQ Managing Director Holger Vogel, quickly draws water to protect itself, so the typical content of water vapour helps to differentiate between dust and smoke clouds. Designed specifically to detect this smoke signature the optical sensor system (“Please don’t call it a camera!” warns Vogel) delivers high resolution grey scale images. FireWatch amplifies the contrast and filters out extraneous light sources at night. The infrared sensitive sensor also detects the illumination of smoke by flames and so ensures short response times at night as well. Mounted on towers where formerly forestry workers kept watch – or on mobile phone masts as well – the camera rotates through 360° in eight minutes, stopping every 10° to take pictures. These pictures are assembled by software into a panoramic image, evaluated automatically, and transmitted together with the coordinates to the centre over the land lines or mobile phone infrastructure. Because FireWatch, like earlier the watchers with binoculars, scans the horizon it is ideal for both flat and hilly landscapes – but unlike forestry workers does not tire. The system detects fires typically in four minutes from the one tower, or in two minutes from two overlapping towers. Covering an area fifteen kilometres across a tower can protect seventy thousand hectares of forest – making the costs of 75,000 Euros a modest sum indeed. In Germany FireWatch mounted on 176 towers protects about eighteen thousand square kilometres of endangered area. IQ is also installing the system in Australia, Portugal and Poland. Also as dangerous as a spreading fire is the infection of entire production halls with computer viruses and malware. Combating infections of this kind is the speciality of the Adlershof company Innominate. Its system mGuard is included as an OEM product in the industrial network installations of a great many providers. But what is the difference between industrial and office security installations? “Production is mainly about availability,” explained Dr Lutz Jänicke, Head of Development at Innominate. “Even when a hacker attack is detected, the car must at all events leave the production line.” In addition, he added, detected problems must be reported differently – after all, the factory worker is not sitting in front of the screen – and resolved whenever possible with remote maintenance via special secure lines, or so called VPN tunnels. Besides the software Innominate has developed an industry grade hardware portfolio that is also being produced in Germany. Udo Flor Links:
Holger Vogel, CEO of IQ wireless, explains FireWatch to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Arnold Schwarzenegger, governor of California.