California fires reducing homes to ashes could give RFID a reason to shine.
A couple of years ago I wrote an article about a group of graduate students at the University of Washington use RFID tags in studying genetically modified trees, tapping a chip into a tree that's read with handheld devices throughout its life to improve conservation techniques.
Then in 2006, I wrote an article about four college students from Politehnica University of Bucharest who developed a network of wireless sensors to monitor forests in Romania for poaching, flooding, and fires. The application sends out alerts based on data about humidity, sound, temperature, and carbon monoxide levels.
It's a sensor network that California could use today, as Santa Ana winds continue to fuel fires from San Diego to Santa Clarita. I'm located about 10 miles North/West of the fires in Irvine. For those of you not in the area, I can tell you the air is filled with ash, and the sky, thick black smoke.
The sensor network operates on low power requirements, establishing a wireless network and routing protocol that connects the battery-powered sensors to a central server. From there, alerts are sent to PDAs if the application recognizes a change in humidity, for example. The data also becomes available on a Web site where anyone can monitor Romania's forest conditions.
People monitoring the system could conceivably react to the sound of chain saws operating in an area where logging isn't allowed, or alert authorities of a fire if carbon dioxide and temperature levels spike in an area. Perhaps someone could call Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and let him know.