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ACT Emergency Services and AWS Capture Bushfire Data with Live Video

The Government of the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Emergency Services Agency (ESA) has been leveraging the security and reliability of Amazon Web Services (AWS) for live video streaming, archive, and complex spatial data processing.

ESA is the ACT Government organisation charged with providing emergency management services to the Canberra community and works closely with its counterparts across the country. ESA operates cutting-edge specialist intelligence gathering (SIG) that allows for live video streaming and spatial data collection of fires. With both standard and infrared camera capabilities, SIG provides fire line and hot spot information directly to the ESA Incident Management Teams in real time.

Reliably streaming live video and data from a helicopter presents many environmental challenges, including limited bandwidth and an ever-changing geographical environment. Fast, efficient processing of information is necessary. Solutions can be expensive and complex to operate, often requiring costly infrastructure. Through the National Aerial Firefighting Centre (NAFC), ESA contracted helicopters and defined the requirements for an interoperable video streaming and spatial data processing solution. To meet the needs of emergency services that can adapt with the changing fire seasons, ESA worked with AWS Partner Network (APN) Partner Bigmate to architect a solution that could best service the ACT community and be interoperable with other jurisdictions if required.

The fire season is typically four months of the year, so the solution needed to adapt to the peaks and troughs, ensuring best value for money over the year.

AWS was selected because it offered a complete suite of interoperable services, including AWS Elemental MediaLive, and allowed for expansion driven by business need rather than technology.

Underpinned by MediaLive for video transcoding and automatic archiving, the solution processes incoming video to extract, process, and store spatial data using AWS Lambda. All the video files and spatial data are then made accessible securely through private Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) buckets and applications residing in Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud (Amazon EC2). If additional helicopters are added, the solution can rapidly scale to accommodate needed changes. By leveraging the automatic archiving of MediaLive, ESA ensures it can review video footage on demand and enable access to help not only the real-time firefighting operations but the ability to review what has happened to support future operations.

Technology and services company Bigmate was chosen to help deliver the solution for a unique and complex environment. Bigmate’s focus is on computer vision technologies and extending the use of video through the application of artificial intelligence and machine learning. The company understood not only the AWS services needed, but also the underlying business requirements for a solution that would work and be supported seven days a week through the fire season.

Traditional approaches were simply not going to be cost effective. To achieve the reliability and performance required in such a challenging environment, Bigmate recognised the need to think outside of the box and take advantage of serverless technology that could scale and reduce the overall operational footprint needed to maintain the solution.

The solution pivots around MediaLive. Responsible for receiving the real-time video from helicopters, MediaLive performs the heavy lifting of transcoding video, archiving it to Amazon S3, and distributing the transcoded video. Through secure web and mobile applications, end users can view live and saved video anywhere there is an internet connection.

MediaLive was selected because it can be turned on and off as required and offers extensive configuration options that supports both the complex operational environment as well as future needs, such as inserting images when the video stream is stopped.

Lambda is employed using custom layers that include FFMPEG. These are triggered from Amazon S3 to analyse and extract metadata from the video. This metadata is passed through AWS IoT to drive the web platform. Telemetry data (KLV data) is embedded in the video and provides an enormous wealth of information that can be used to identify location, time, direction, and other information directly from the camera and helicopter. Complementing this, Lambda also receives, processes, and formats spatial data recorded in the helicopter by its operators, ensuring the information collected on fires can be continuously processed and made available to the relevant users. Whether images, shape files, or KML files, this data can be further processed using automated tasks rather than manual processing when required in the future.

By wrapping the solution up in AWS supporting services such as Amazon Cloudwatch, activities are centrally logged and managed through a common supporting environment.


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