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Startup's AI technology could help power line operators prevent wildfires

image credit: Buzz Solutions
Peter Key's picture
Freelance Writer, Editor, Consultant Self-employed

I've been a business journalist since 1985 when I received an MBA from Penn State. I covered energy, technology, and venture capital for The Philadelphia Business Journal from 1998 through 2013....

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  • Aug 5, 2020

Smokey Bear may soon have to amend his catchphrase to "Only you and artificial intelligence can prevent wildfires."

The reason is Buzz Solutions, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based startup that recently announced it had raised $1.2 million in seed funding.

Buzz Solutions' AI technology analyzes images of power line infrastructure and surrounding vegetation looking for faults and fire risks. The company says it can perform image analysis and provide actionable reports in hours or days, compared to the six to eight months engineers now take to do the work, while reducing the cost of the process by 50 to 70 percent. A large southern California utility, a large Midwest utility, and two large New York utilities are using the technology in pilot programs, according to the company. One of its dashboards is pictured above.

I think it's only a matter of time before Buzz Solutions' technology becomes widespread, but wonder who will end up owning it and how it will be deployed. For example, a big software company that already serves the electric power industry could buy it and make it available to power infrastructure operators, drone operators looking to expand their services, or both.

There is at least one company with somewhat similar technology. Skyqraft, which I wrote about earlier this year, is a Swedish startup that uses machine learning to analyze the photos taken by its drones, identify equipment that may fail or trees that may fall on power lines and give a probability that its assessment of a particular piece of equipment or tree is correct. (In case you're wondering what the difference between machine learning and artificial intelligence is, this piece does a good job of posing an answer, though it's probably one that not everyone would agree with.)

As you can probably guess from its location, Buzz Solutions does have a tie to Stanford University. It's part of StartX, an accelerator that describes itself as a nonprofit community of serial entrepreneurs, industry experts, tenured Stanford professors, and well-funded growth-stage startups.

Buzz Solutions' seed round was led by Blackhorn Ventures with participation from a syndicate comprising Ulu Ventures, Vodia Ventures, and





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