Grid.vc I Ky was a lead investor in the company’s seed financing round. The total funding raised by the company was EUR 800 thousand, which includes a business development loan from Business Finland. The target company is American-based Ai4 Technologies, Inc, whose Finnish founders intend to respond to California wildfires with artificial intelligence.
Forest fires increased by climate change have caused more damage in recent years than in the past. In California alone, the lives of 80,000 people have been permanently changed as a result of forest fires in recent years. One forest fire can produce 1.5 million tons of carbon dioxide per day. The 2017 forest fires in Northern California produced the same amount of greenhouse gases per week as the year’s car traffic across the state.
Ai4’s goal is to develop a system for solid network monitoring (based on lidar and thermal camera data as well as environmental conditions) and an in-car mobile lidar system that analyzes lidar data in near real-time.
The technology being developed seeks to detect and alert risks even before the actual fault or fire occurs. “The power grid has been identified as the cause of many wildfires in California. Ai4 technology installed, for example, in electricity network poles would create an effective and widespread early detection and warning system to fight wildfires. A continuous AI-based monitoring will benefit the whole society by identifying and alerting external risks in real time. This would make distribution companies a part of the solution rather than risk factor. Such preventive monitoring and warning system would be extremely valuable in preventing catastrophes like the Paradise fire,” says Tero Heinonen, founder of Ai4.
The company has a contract to pilot the system in California with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and in Canada with Manitoba Hydro. Negotiations are also underway with North American energy companies. Jaakko Isotalo, Fund Manager at Grid.vc Oy: “There is an acute need in California and Australia to find solutions to improve grid security due to wildfires. In Finland we have active discussion about transmission price increase pressure because of investments into improving weather tolerance of the electricity grid. Ai4 and other intelligent approaches might be able to offer more cost-effective solution than cabling distribution grids under ground”.
The founders of Ai4, Tero Heinonen and Samuel Salmenlinna, are both experienced developers of energy innovations. Company has offices in San Francisco and Helsinki. “We have very good artificial intelligence expertize in Finland. We solve global problems and our first customers are in North America, but our R&D will be based on deep expertize in Finland”, Salmenlinna points out.