Smartphone sensors may alert and help prevent fires

A study by Prof. Colin Price and Ph.D. student Hofit Shahaf indicates an ability to use data collected from phones to help prevent fires

29 December 2019
Smartphone sensors may alert and help prevent fires


The sensors on our mobile phones collect data about the surrounding of our present location. Yes, they collect much information about us and our online activities but also on the places we go and the environment we are in.


A research study by Ph.D. student Hofit Shahaf and Prof. Colin Price at the Tel Aviv University School of the Environmental and Earth Sciences showed that by analyzing aggregated information collected by smartphones, we can improve weather prediction and even save lives in extreme events. Various metrics were examined in the study. At the annual Science and Environment Conference of the Israeli Society of Ecology and Environmental Sciences, held at the Porter Building in June 2019, the researchers presented their findings and demonstrated how data collected by sensors on smartphones can be instrumental in identify areas that are susceptible for wild fires and alert you us to the danger.


In the study, data was collected over four years from telephones placed at Tel Aviv University and from data shared by 40,000 people worldwide through the collaborative WeatherSignal app.


Although meteorological stations are more sophisticated and accurate than cell phones, the stations are far apart and their coverage is limited. The large number of on-the-move phones and their wealth of GPS and environmental data enables extensive data coverage capability to help identify appropriate conditions and predict risks of extreme events such as fires.



Chart: Sensors withi smartphones allow to measure a variety of environmental variables. On the left, data is displayed using the AndroSensor app


Data chart from the study, showing humidity data collected in November over 5 years and comparing data from November 2016 with concurrent data from the Israeli Meteorological Service, during a period of many wild fires eruption.



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