Can IoT monitoring help mitigate the impact of natural disasters on communities?

Natural disasters are a devastating force on every front – they can cause loss of life, damage to the environment, destruction of property and billions of dollars in costs. From Cyclone Gabrielle, to the Canterbury earthquakes, to the Lake Ohau fire, New Zealand has seen a considerable number of disasters in recent years and they'll continue to be part of our future as the effects of climate change are felt.

In addition to climate change, our location and geography make Aotearoa particularly susceptible to a range of natural hazards – so we need to embrace tech that can support us to cope with these events. Can IoT and remote monitoring help us improve our response to natural disasters and mitigate some of their damage?


Minimising flood damage with water monitoring

We’ve recently seen first-hand the catastrophic damage that can be done by a huge cyclone and heavy rains. Although most of this cannot be prevented, it is possible to monitor floodwaters to help minimise the risk to human life and property.

Level sensors in flood prone areas can provide early alerts of where water is rising fastest and what areas are likely to flood next. This can help people take preventative actions such as moving stock, plant equipment or even advise response teams on where to direct their efforts to prevent loss of life.

Read more about preventing flood damage with IoT sensors

Once the storm is over, the problems with water don’t immediately resolve themselves. After an event like Cyclone Gabrielle, water quality becomes a significant public health issue. We saw ‘boil water’ notices in place, many beaches weren't swimmable, and raw sewage was being pumped out to sea after wastewater treatment plants were damaged. Keeping track of water safety and quality, in our seas, lakes and rivers, is an ongoing challenge for responders, residents and businesses.

Learn about Spark water monitoring options

Water monitoring using IoT devices provides real-time data that can help keep people and waterways safe. It lets you know up-to-the-minute water quality information that can be checked on any mobile device. That can allow you to answer questions about drinkability, swimmability and whether it’s safe to collect seafood.

For example, aquaculture businesses like Westpac Mussels cannot harvest mussels unless the water quality meets specified standards, and they use Spark IoT solutions to ensure their products are safe and sustainable – particularly important after periods of heavy rain.

Read about how Westpac Mussels uses water quality monitoring


Earthquake early warning systems can reduce injuries and deaths

While cyclones can hit any country, New Zealand is at a particularly high risk for earthquakes. We experience over 20,000 quakes every year, according to the seismic devices we have in place to remotely measure ground movement.

In future, we could use these devices, and newer IoT sensors, to provide an earthquake early warning system. These systems detect the ground movement that occurs in a quake, sending an emergency warning to phones in the area which can provide five to 10 seconds of warning before the quake strikes.

Watch a video explaining how earthquake early warning systems work

That gives people who aren’t in the quake’s epicentre enough time to take action. They could put down a scalpel, move away from a stack of containers, or turn off their chainsaw. It can give authorities time to slow down trains and shut off gas pipelines. These measures can reduce injuries, deaths and damage.

Read more about earthquakes in Aotearoa


Early fire detection protects people and parks

We might not have the same fire risk as our neighbours in Australia, but events like the Port Hills and Lake Ohau bushfires demonstrate how destructive they can be.

IoT sensors and systems can be an incredible tool for preventing and fighting fires, whether it’s inside a specific building or over an entire forest. Remote cameras and thermal imaging can detect fires by comparing images of a forest every few minutes and alerting if anything changes, such as smoke appearing. This not only makes it easier to detect fires before they get out of control, it also means no more manned towers, keeping people in the industry safer.

You can see IoT fire detection in action in Christchurch at the 800-hectare Waitākiri/Bottle Lake Forest Park. There are five devices installed at the park which include 360° thermal imaging cameras with AI, ultra-high-definition imagery and a wide array of monitoring capability. This technology provides early fire detection, so fire teams can arrive sooner and fight a smaller blaze.

Learn more about how IoT is protecting the Waitākiri/Bottle Lake Forest Park


A global network of IoT for disaster detection and management

In future, it may be possible for nations to work together, creating a worldwide network of IoT devices that generate real-time data. Ideally that information would be freely available to anyone who wants to track it, study it, and use it for disaster detection and management. This could ultimately save lives across the globe, as well as improving response times and reducing damage.

Learn more about the potential of Spark’s IoT solutions here, or talk to one of our IoT team to find out how IoT and AI could help your organisation detect problems sooner and manage them more effectively.

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Westpac Mussels

Westpac Mussels is a 50-year-old family business, and it’s also at the cutting edge of New Zealand’s aquaculture industry.

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Launch & Announcement

8th March

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15th March to 28th June

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27th July

Judging Starts

26th August

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4th September

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