Bushfire sparks bright idea that could save the lives and properties of many

Bushfire sparks bright idea that could save the lives and properties of many

01 February 2016

published by www.weeklytimesnow.com.au

Australia–  Memories of the devastating Canberra bushfires of 2003 have never left Max Glanville.

Relatives of his had a narrow escape that blistering January day, when the inferno destroyed half of an uncle’s back yard.

In the years since, Mr Glanville, now 24, has nurtured a passion to do something to help.

“The fact is, we rely on the fire services and the media to give us updates during an emergency, but we as homeowners far outweigh firefighters in terms of numbers,” he said. “Why aren’t we the information gatherers?”

“This is the age of social media and we are all talking to each other constantly, so why shouldn’t we be using that to keep each other safe?”

With that in mind, Mr Glanville created Fire Front, a home bushfire detection ­system designed to track changes in heat, wind speed and direction using a thermal imaging camera and ultrasonic wind sensors.

If it senses dangerous fire conditions, it alerts the homeowners through an app, then feeds that information into emergency networks.

Mr Glanville developed the system during his final year as an industrial design student at the University of NSW.

He claims his system can help evacuate people 50 per cent faster than any other solution on the market.

Mr Glanville was last year named the Hills Young Australian Designer of the Year for his work on the Fire Front, which uses a 170-degree, wide-angle lens for maximum coverage and four ultrasonic transducers to “read” the wind.

“It’s that combination which tells you where the fire is going to go and how fast it is travelling,” he said.

As part of his research, Mr Glanville spoke with residents hit hard by the fires at ­Winmalee, in the Blue Mountains, in October, 2013.

“Until you actually talk to someone who has had that ­experience, you can’t get really good insights into what can be done,’’ he said.

“Nothing really prepares you for what you’re about to hear. It made me realise just how frightening a fire can be.

“Fire Front’s main aim is to have people able to respond rapidly to an emergency — both residents and the fire services — and, ultimately, help residents to confidently make the decision about whether to stay or evacuate.

“A lot of the time, people are making that decision too late.

“What’s been happening recently in Western Australia and the Otways region of Victoria only makes something like this even more urgent.”

Mr Glanville has taken out patents and is continuing with his testing work.

He is looking for funding and the right partnerships in the hope of getting the product to market.

He said the unit, home module and initial service fee would ideally be priced at about $1500.

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