Stopping Fires, Preventing Millions of Tonnes of CO2
We want to detect wildfires at this smouldering stage within the first hour as the fire develops, so that the firefighters still have a good chance to extinguish the fire before it spins out of control.
Carsten BrinkschulteCEO of Dryad Networks
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we use the all of the experience and the knowledge and uh the talent also the funding that we have to to to do something about it actually to use technology um to make a change a real change
hello i am very excited to welcome carsten from dryad to the interviews today um carston i have spoken a couple of times before and i found his story and the technology absolutely exciting so carsten would you please just introduce yourself say who you are and and what it is you do right thanks scott yeah uh my name is carson briggs i'm co-founder and ceo of dried networks and what we do is we we build an ultra early detection system for wildfires so that we can actually detect the wildfires at the smoldering phase at a very early stages uh alert the fire brigades so they get a reasonable chance to extinguish the fire before they get turned into catastrophes fantastic and one of the things i remember from our um earlier conversation is kind of a bit more about your background and how you kind of pivoted to do what you do now really that i think that story was really interesting would you mind sharing it with us again that'd be great my background is mobile network technology i guess i've spent about 20 25 years in telecoms building network infrastructure software components and building 4g network infrastructure and i've done three startups and exited all of them and after i've sold my last company to twilio um i was basically falling into a hole like you always do after you you sell your baby and didn't know really what to do um and i was sitting with a friend of mine having actually some whiskey in the evening and in the backgrounds we were seeing the devastating wildfires in the amazon at the time and and that actually triggered a longer conversation and we thought like hey why don't we use the all of the experience and the knowledge and uh the talent also the funding that we have to to to do something about it actually to use technology um to make a change a real change and not just build the next smartphone up and actually that was the the trigger for dryad actually that's amazing so i mean this these series of interviews are really to try and understand what drives people to do what they're doing with the technology and the kind of impact that you're looking to have with that and i think it's quite it's quite clear there really um i think if i understand you were kind of emotionally driven to create some kind of answer that was that was going to help solve this um for the planet um do you want to tell me a bit about um some of the some of the challenges on how you got that going um and uh you know how how it ended up to be where you are today yeah going on from that evening actually my friend is actually a very gifted hardware uh electronics developer or a genius i should say um and i've got the telecommunications background and of course that you know we thought well why don't we combine his knowledge my knowledge you know him building sensors and electronics and and me knowing how to build networks and infrastructure and scalable components that actually you know reach very far and build something that actually scales because the the challenge is ginormous right if you want to protect the forest you're not talking about a few few trees here you're talking about hundreds or thousands uh or even millions of square miles that we need to protect um and so far people have tried to do that with satellites and and cameras but but these systems are too slow they detect the wildfires too late um and that's what we learned when we don't you know we delved into into the idea we've seen other approaches and they didn't work so we came up with the idea let's build this ultra early detection system for wildfires so that we can actually prevent um those wildfires before they even happen uh and that's that's key it's like whenever you want to stop a big catastrophe the best is to stop it in a very early tracks before it actually becomes a big problem i think the current pandemic teaches us that um we had acted earlier we wouldn't be in the mess that we're in right now so we want to do the same for for one of the biggest problems um wildfires and why is wildfires so important uh what i've learned and i didn't know before i started this process but learned along the way is that we all know climate change is the biggest challenge that humanity is facing i guess that we all agree upon um and and then what we don't yet really know is what how to solve all of this um but what i learned is that that wildfires are contributing up to 20 of the global two co2 emissions each year right that's about the same amount of co2 that the entire traffic all cars all planes all ships combined put into the atmosphere so if we could stop um wildfires a significant amount of it we could have the same impact that tesla will have hopefully turning the car industry into an electric car industry so that's our vision that's our ambition we want to reduce co2 emissions and doing that by preventing wildfires and cutting into those 20 percent and that that we're currently seeing yeah i guess i guess it's more than just the co2 that's being generated through these wildfires but you're removing in the fire removing the sink that takes away some of the co2 as well absolutely it's a double whammy right the wildfire is out not only as you say pumping enormous amount of co2 into the air uh also causing damage to to human health lung currents are another other diseases increasing but also uh uh basically devastating the world's largest carbon sink um that is still the forest worldwide and i i think we're we're losing um about a football pitch every 30 seconds at the moment due to fires every 30 seconds and and that's got to stop if we don't stop that it's of course increasing um the spiral it's in it's a double whammy right you put more into co2 in the air you reduce the the carbon sink that that further accelerates the co2 increase in the atmosphere yeah and i think the the topic of air quality is something that has been coming up a lot in my conversations recently a couple of years ago i i developed um some prototypes for some testing equipment and you can see i've got one up there from it's called the flow it's uh it's it's something that i'm very interested in so maybe i should just see more of it but i think it's a massive problem and the um when combined with the pandemic i think we've all seen the importance of healthy air and healthy lungs so i guess i'm very interested in understanding moving forward as well what uh impact in terms of the improvement of air quality we can see by with the reduction of um wildfires as well yes there is a direct impact on on human health in particular if the wildfires are in areas where of course the people are living um and the smoke travels miles hundreds of miles thousands of miles um you know you you sometimes if you've got a huge wildfire in indonesia the surrounding countries are complaining to the government of indonesia that actually uh they're receiving all of the smoke that comes out of the the wild virus and it has an impact on health um in a way that is not fully researched yet but but but clearly there is an impact on lung diseases cancer and other aspects if you're exposed to prolonged periods of breathing uh air that that's coming out of wildfires you will have a substantial impact on the entire population's health yeah yeah i've done i've read some research that has suggested it's linked to a lot more than we we appreciate from cardiac problems to blood problems um to general health i mean yeah it's um it's serious so um your technology sounds like it couldn't come at a better time it sounds like it's really focused and something we need to solve but there's something that's intriguing me you said you need to be able to stop it before it happens that sounds a bit minority report to me tell me how how do you do that right okay well that's not exactly true it's a bit of overselling obviously uh a wildfire starts um very small um about 80 i understand about 80 87 of wildfires are human induced and that means basically the the proverbial cigarette being thrown out of a driving car um a campfire going out of control um you know children playing in the forest setting up unintentionally a wildfire and all of those things many of them in particular cigarettes are starting out as a smoldering fire which basically means very very small there is no real open fire yet there is already um you know a change in the atmosphere that can be detected and that's um actually our approach we we want to detect wildfires at the smoldering stage within the first hour as the fire develops so that then the the firefighters still have a good chance um to extinguish the fire before it spins out of control because that is the real problem most wildfires eventually are detected right because as they grow eventually you can see them from miles apart the far and and then the fire brigades will be alerted they arrive at the scene and the fire is already too big to be extinguished and that's the biggest problem right we we see the wildfires we see them from the from from the sky from satellites from aeroplanes um with cameras but but when we see them it's already too late to extinguish them and our our approach is to actually detect the wildfires at the smouldering phase before there is an open fire because that gives that critical time advantage to the firefighters to actually extinguish that and how we're doing that um is with gas sensors because when you are um seeing what's happening at the smoldering phase there are already a lot of chemical reactions happening on uh paralysis that that's what it's called it's when when basically the
roots and other and leaves and needles and other things which are on the ground of of the forest floor they're starting to evaporate because of the heat um and they're they're they're basically generating gases um carbon monoxide carbon dioxide hydrogen and another cocktail of gases is already um being exposed and thrown into the air by the smoldering fire and we we're basically building uh gas sensing devices that can detect the change in the air quality and look for patterns that are typical for wildfire and if they detect them uh send out an alert okay very interesting and then how do you how do you get those uh what technology are you using to connect those are they using 5g or 4g or something different well this is one of the prototypes that we've built earlier last year it's one of those devices that will eventually go into the tree into the trees they're solar powered so they don't require batteries they're maintenance-free and they should last for about you know 10-15 years but of course a key question you've just asked how do those devices once they detect a wildfire actually send out the alert right they need some form of communication environment and of course at first because i'm a mobile network guy i thought well let's use 4g and narrowband iot and all of those wonders that i've been working on for for the last decade or so but the the reality is that in in the forest there hardly isn't any network coverage i guess we've all experienced that if you do a hike you know you typically don't have any network coverage um because the operators don't bother to put up the massively expensive mobile network infrastructure in areas where there are no customers right and so we cannot for our system rely on 4g or even 5g not even 2g it's just just not viable there are some areas of forest where there is network coverage but the vast majorities of the large network forests are not covered with mobile networks so we had to build our own um and that's exactly what we're doing a key part of what dryad is doing is not just building the sensors but also the communications infrastructure for for the for the sensors and we're using we're not using 4g we're not using 5g because that's horribly expensive you need to pay license fees to the governments they ask for literally billions if you want to do that and we don't have that funding what we're using is a network technology called laura and laura is something like wi-fi it's free to air you can use it you don't need to pay license fees uh but unlike wi-fi it can uh bridge you know um 10 15 kilometers of range um and of course that's an er you know that's more suitable for for the areas that we try to cover so we're building a mobile network infrastructure for our sensors it's not a network infrastructure where you can send your youtube videos over there but it's enough for our sensors to send out an alert you know it's a very tiny amount of data that needs to be transmitted so we're building up i guess the other thing with laura is you mentioning there is it's uh really useful for small amounts of data but because that is low it can be low power and that's why your sensors can last so long on solar power so yeah well they last indefinitely as long as the electronics don't break right so they they get recharged every day enough energy to last through the night um and and so theoretically they they could last for you know for for decades not sure if the electronics will survive that long or uh but but 15 years is what we're targeting at the moment yes so you you early on you threw out some very interesting statistics so um wildfires are 20 of their carbon emissions those i think you said 87 of them are caused by humans that's right unfortunately you want to try and eliminate as much of that as possible um i guess this isn't all happening in in the amazon i guess there's wildfires all over the place um can you give us a sense of how many wildfires are happening around us all the time well i think europe um which is where um we are located we're based in berlin germany uh is is uh not immune to wildfires at all we've got about 50 000 wildfires each year in europe um germany is about 700 and in the area where i do live here in berlin and the last two years we've had the worst wildfires in a time span of 100 years so it is it is very much something that that is not just the amazon even though that makes the news a lot in california but it's happening everywhere greece um portugal is hit a lot spain uh poland even sweden has has a lot of a lot of wildfires each year and and devastating ones so it's uh it's clearly not just the the biggest wildfires in the amazon um that are a big problem we need to solve we need to go to europe australia uh united states siberia is a huge problem with peat fires uh each year that's causing enormous amount of co2 to be to be exposed into the air so it's a global problem really and it's accelerating at a dramatic pace uh due to climate change because we'll see we have seen we've seen intensive more intensified period of droughts which of course increases the risks of wildfires dramatically so you're talking about potentially hundreds thousands of deployments across thousands of hundreds of thousands of forests well if we achieve our visions yes um so the vision really of dried is not just to look at germany uh but to look uh at it on a global uh basis now of course that's a that's a steep um challenge and a tough call for a small company that just got funded and is building its product but hey hey you've got to have ambitions and b i've scaled companies before so it's possible as a small company to have a global impact if you find the right partners and that's actually our strategy so in order to go to market we'll be working on what's called an oem strategy oem means basically you're licensing your technology to other companies and they're bringing it to market often under their own brands and that's exactly our intention so we're building the the key technology and the products and we're already reaching out and are seeing pretty good interest by large companies to actually take this technology once it's developed and tested and bring it to market in the regions and and that's if that's successful how we can scale globally even though we're just a small startup wow wow so in in terms of that um the the 87 of the 20 percent um if you've got a sense of how much you want to take a bite out of that particular cake in the next couple well we we obviously um uh are aligned to sdgs and we've got some kpis in our business plan um um it's they're they're hugely varying of course depending on how quickly we can take this to market right but um just to give an example if we if we deployed let's say in australia um which of course has has huge issues with uh with wildfires each year and we only stop one of the biggest wildfires that they have each year we can we can prevent millions of tons of co2s from being exposed into the uh just by preventing one wildfire right so it's very difficult to to predict how much impact we will have because it depends a lot on where we will deploy the system first and how many fires will we be able to stop now our intention of course is to go into those areas where we can have the biggest impact um and and that clearly is united states and and australia at the moment uh where the particular united states with the new administration in place i'm having high hopes that they're more open for for you know solutions on climate change um but um you know even australia with the current government i think is uh interested in in these kind of solutions i'm not very optimistic on brazil at the moment but you know that that might change in in the future hopefully as well so our impact uh ambitions are clearly on on climate action so uh sdg 13 is is one of our key goals that we that we want to focus on of course um and and there is clearly the co2 reduction and yes we we're predicting um to take millions or prevent millions of tons of co2 um to go into the air um by preventing those wildfires but we also have other sdgs we want to focus on um it's uh the the biodiversity is a key aspect of the impact that we want to have if you look at australia for example the last wildfire um about a billion uh animals one billion animals died um during those fires and you know of course i'm hearing thinking oh it's probably ants no it's not ants it's it's reptiles and up and that the impact has been estimated to be one billion animals that died so the impact on biodiversity of wildfires is is devastating and particularly if we know that about three three quarters of all biodiversity is in the forest worldwide so every every hectare of forest that we lose takes a bite out of that biodiversity wow so you touched on the sdgs there and we aligned with those that's really interesting and good to good to get that alignment um we also talked a little bit about some of the things that have changed like the us administration um so if we can take a moment to take a little bit of kind of a retrospective look over the last two years to see what change for both good and bad but then also move forward maybe five years what do we what do you need what do you hope will change in the next five years to help us reach those sdg goals well i think what has changed in the last two to three years is that increasingly there is awareness for the problem finally on a on a mass scale not just a few people who know what's happening but it's something that's becoming more widespread i guess and and and that's good because it really has to happen i guess um if once you dig into the issue you understand we have to act if we don't act um we we will not have much future for for our children to inherit um so there is no alternative to act and the thing that's not yet happening enough despite the fact that we all know that it needs to be done is actual action what i'm very happy about to see is that the financial markets are beginning to understand the impacts of climate change and they act rationally right um because that at least they pretend to um and they they they work on predictions and risk and that's basically what's driving them to divest from carbon intensive industries which will be hit by climate change the most from an economic perspective and drive into sustainable industries the financial resources that they have and we're talking about trillions of dollars or euro whatever currency you're looking at the financial markets are starting to react uh and and divest from carbon intensive uh uh industries and put that these vast amount of money into a sustainable industry that will drive a huge change probably a much bigger change in any political party or any government can can ever have so that's a silent change um that that i'm seeing uh with you know the ceo of blackrock for example telling people you know let's get out of carbon and move into into sustainable that that that's an important thing that will have a lot of change moving forward but i'm also seeing on on the political landscape um really positive signs uh at least hopeful signs uh the green new deal that the european union is cooking up sounds really really good and don't forget the number it's a 1.7 trillion euro or something that they want to pour into the economy to to foster the and accelerate the the green transition um you know uh because it's not just wildfires we need to stop we need to transform the entire industry uh if we want to stop this so i'm seeing i'm i'm hopeful um that we can turn the corner um but it's not fast enough it needs to accelerate and it needs to become dramatic that's you picked up on some really interesting points that i've been tracking as well the black rock piece did he call it the 170 trillion dollar mega trend yeah yeah that's right yeah 170 something like that so that's yeah there's a very positive move i've also um in a in an interview i conducted yesterday um somebody told me um her motivation is something her her father said which was be good ancestors um which i think is a nice way of looking at it but to your point about acting um like you my my career was mostly telecoms and um kind of i guess unashamedly back then chasing the money you know i was young i needed the money but now i've got to a point where i can start to really sit back and think what's this what's this for you know what's the point why am i doing this it's really led me to do what we're doing today um and in doing that i've realized how much good is actually going on there is so much going on all over the planet one of the challenges i see is bringing all of that together in some kind of consistent way to have a greater impact than than all of these small things happening around do you think this is something that will get better and how would you suggest or advise people to try and get their small projects part of something bigger to have a bigger impact well i think what you're doing here is a good example of you know spreading the word and increasing awareness is an absolute key aspect because yes awareness has increased for these solutions and and the problems um but but but it needs to further increase so get the word out and don't stop talking about it it's not a topic that's going away it's not boring it won't ever get boring um it's just only going to get more exciting and it's got to become sexy to solve the problem and it is it is actually it feels really good um if you if you change uh the side of the fence you know like you have been um chasing money um and i've done three exits so i've been done that that's fine but you know chasing even more money is not just satisfying anymore right what is satisfying deeply satisfying is actually to work on uh solutions that are intending to solve real problems and and you know what we do is an example where there are hundreds and thousands of other examples that need to be solved and people doing you know amazing thing but once you start doing it you you look back at what you've done so far you think well that was kind of boring i mean why did i build that smartphone up really what did i change with that did i change anything other than generate some numbers on my bank account but i didn't really change anything right so and and now doing something that actually potentially if it works can really have an impact that's so deeply satisfying um so i think it's it's it's so rewarding um to to jump on on this bandwagon and at the same time you know it's not bad to make money at all um and i'm thinking um what you can do is i've heard this saying somebody's saying you're doing well while you're doing good um and and i think we're an example of trying to do that yes we want to change something big but you know we're not a charity we're not a non-profit organization we do want to make money from this and and we do have a business case right um and i'm not ashamed of saying that we want to be a profitable company doing good because the more profitable we will be the more we can pour into the product the more acceleration we can have as a company so it's good to be profitable um if you're doing good and therefore not ashamed of trying to do that um in our case um your wildfires are causing i think about 140 billion dollars of economic damage each year and that's of course a great business case right um yes we want to have an impact but i can also go to to insurance companies and say look you guys you pay 40 billion dollars of insurance claims each year because of wildfires how how about making a deal to prevent those 40 billion dollars from being spent next year right so there is a clear business case uh for us that we can sell to those that have the money while at the same time prevent climate change from happening or at least help to prevent it a little bit wonderful wonderful i normally ask um i guess you know if they can provide some words of inspiration or some guidance okay we've done a lot of that i'm sorry if i uh asked if i answered your question before you asked oh it's great i mean i can just tear up my script it's great um i will ask you one last thing though um is there something we haven't we haven't touched on is there some kind of passing words of wisdom wisdom or inspiration that you'd like to share with everybody who's watching um well you know as i said spread the word there is you know interviews like you uh are doing and the whole initiative that you're doing is great let's spread the word and keep on tweeting about it and facebooking about it and uh talk about it and zoom video calls with your family on wherever you're going to see or meet them because it's much more interesting than the last football game i think
excellent well carsten thank you so much um i'll ask you just lastly if people want to know more where should they go to find out more well obviously we've got a website um it's uh dryad.net that that's our company so if you want to get in touch with us so you're interested in doing things or one just want to have a chat um please please reach out brilliant okay i'll put the put the links in below the video and i'll just remind everybody who's watching please do click like please do subscribe to the channel and get all of the other updates and interviews that are coming coming soon so carson thank you once again it's been absolutely fantastic thank you
My Thoughts on the Conversation
Whilst I couldn't have not heard about the rainforest devastation in the Amazon and the bushfires of Australia, I was surprised to hear from Carsten how many forest fires happen on my geographical doorstep.
The tragedy of forest fires is three fold; huge CO2 emissions, a reduction in the natural ability to remove that CO2 and destruction of biodiversity. As such, technologies that can help prevent wildfires are definitely very interesting for all of us.
The IoT sensors Dryad has built connect across the forest using LoRA WAN wireless networks and allow sensors to be deployed that could last, theoretically, indefinitely. What I found really fascinating was the pragmatic approach to how Carsten and the team are taking to achieve significant positive impact.
Given the high percentage of wildfires that are started by human activity, they focus their efforts on deploying in areas you might expect to find humans.
Then, instead of trying to deal big fires, the technology 'sniffs' out the tell-tale indicators of a fire's genesis, enabling firefighters to tackle it before it's out of control.
I really enjoyed this conversation, and I hope you will too. Please let me know what you think by leaving a comment below.
Find out more about Dryad Networks here http://dryad.net/
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