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Brentwood School student, aged 15, pitches app detecting wildfires to top AI professionals

PUBLISHED: 12:12 21 June 2019 | UPDATED: 12:13 21 June 2019

Brentwood School pupil Tanay Sonawane has pitched his life-saving app SPOTAFIRE to top industry professionals. Picture: Brentwood School/Google Maps

Brentwood School pupil Tanay Sonawane has pitched his life-saving app SPOTAFIRE to top industry professionals. Picture: Brentwood School/Google Maps

Brentwood School/Google Maps

A 15-year-old entrepreneurial enthusiast pitched his life-saving app SPOTAFIRE to top industry professionals last week.

Brentwood School Fourth Year student Tanay Sonawane was joined by two other team members for the pitch at CogX, The Festival of AI and Emerging Technology, in front of a crowd of 200 including high-ranking directors from HSBC, IBM and CogX's own co-founder.

SPOTAFIRE is an AI powered application that allows early detection of wildfires enabling users to inform others about wildfires in their area, without the need for Wifi.

The idea has already proved a winner at the NASA Space Apps challenge - an international hack-a-thon for coders, scientists, designers, storytellers, makers, builders, technologists, and others in cities around the world.

He explained: "Last year, I entered the NASA Space Apps challenge hack-a-thon.

"In doing so, I was placed in a team to solve the problems on Earth using NASA data.

"My team chose to try and develop an app to aid in logging, discovering and containing wildfires.

"The app itself is basically a button that when pressed can help alert authorities immediately to the wildfire and civilians close by who could be in danger.

"The use of deep AI would help the general public and the authorities to tackle wildfires and gain insights into patterns and factors that could be leading to wildfires.

"There would also be a section in the app where information would be placed so that in the event of you not having any signal, you can help yourself and others to keep safe."

TeensInAI entered Tanay and his fellow team members into CogX - Europe's largest AI festival - and it was the perfect opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the greatest AI experts in the world.

Tanay said: "This was a huge event and something we were very excited for.

"We were competing with other teams for prizes including tours of the DeepMind office and a place on the Pitch@Palace tour.

"It was an absolute joy to pitch in front of a crowd of nearly 200 people and after our pitch we were asked questions on our idea. "Things such as how we could possibly implement the structure of our solution to different problems."

On average 100,000 wildfires happen in the US alone every year.

In 2017, the cost of fighting those wildfires topped $2 billion and 4.5 million homes are at high or extreme risk.

Greenhouse gas emissions from wildfires also contribute to global warming.

Although the team did not emerge as CogX winners, Tanay thoroughly enjoyed the experience and plans to continue working on the app, and hopefully build an actual product.

He added: "We felt it had been an amazing experience to be there and to meet some of the greatest minds in AI.

"The lessons that I learnt about business management and entrepreneurial work will seriously aid me in my future endeavours.

"I will also consider other ideas in the future."

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