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PGE to add more AI cameras, including one in Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood, to detect wildfires

Portland General Electric already has 27 of these high-def AI cameras throughout the Portland area.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland General Electric (PGE) has partnered with Pano AI for the last two years. A company that deploys mountaintop cameras that use artificial intelligence (AI) to detect active smoke and wildfires in a minimum 10-mile radius.  

The utility company just announced they will add six more AI cameras east of the Cascades. 

“We take ultra high definition security cameras and we rotate them 360 degrees every minute,” said Sonia Kastner, CEO of Pano AI. “And then we transmit the data to the cloud using modern communication technology like 5G cellular technology. We then take that data and analyze it, our AI algorithms look for the first wisps of smoke. Then smoke detections are reviewed by a human to make sure there are no false positives.”  

PGE currently has 27 of these cameras. They’re typically atop communication towers throughout the greater Portland metro area. Their first new camera will be installed at the Timberline Lodge on Mount Hood. 

“It has brought together the fire agencies, the utilities and the private space together in a way to try and tackle this issue as a ‘we’ problem,” said Dan Nunez, manager of wildfire planning and analytics at PGE. “It has been an incredible journey at this point with [Pano AI]. We have been able to get more people on board. From a partnership perspective, it has gone excellent.” 

The overall goal here is to give PGE and fire districts a better way to minimize fire threats and track down a blaze. As the AI camera pinpoints the exact fire location and sends a push notification to your cell phone or email — with a clip of the wildfire detection and its location. It also knows the difference between steam, fog and smoke.

The Clackamas Fire District is beyond thankful for this as they’ve already used the new technology first hand.  

“I really do truly believe that it’s a game changer for the fire service,” said Phil Schneider, division chief for Clackamas Fire Dist. 1. “We’re getting early detection, we only run off of time and if we can lessen the time to get to that scene it’s going to be a good outcome.”     

Each location has two cameras that have a 180-degree view. But they work together to create a panoramic perspective. Giving fire districts and PGE a better insight of what actively going on. 

“As crews are able to be dispatched in real time I think we’ll see over and over again that it will be saving homes and lives,” said Nunez. 

Oregon, California, Colorado, Washington, Idaho and Montana are the six states already using this camera technology. Alongside two Australian states — New South Wales and Queensland. 

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