Over the past decade, Northern California has been constantly plagued with hundreds of inevitable wildfires, many of which are sparked by malfunctions in the power grid. As utility companies like PG&E have utility lines spanning thousands of miles, routine checks on each of these lines can only happen once a year, so vegetation around utility poles can grow out of control and come into contact with power lines.

What it does

It is a simple-to-use iOS application that helps anyone with an iOS device seamlessly notify utility companies of hazardous situations such as a tree branch leaning on a utility pole or power line, which could potentially start a fire. It’s quick, accurate, and very helpful for utility companies to use.

How we built it

The application was built using the Swift Programming Language via the XCode IDE. We started with developing the UI of the application to make it responsive and easy-to-use. Next, we programmed the logic of the buttons and saving the data in Google Firebase Realtime Database. Using the CocoaPods Framework, we were able to file a report into the database sending the report information and a picture. We also created a website using HTML/CSS/JS to be able to present the data extracted from the Firebase Database and display that for utility companies to view. We finally added the Map to pin-point the user locations.

Challenges we ran into

Particularly, sending the image that the user took of the incident to the database was very hard to master. Unlike text, where you can just send data as a string to be displayed as such in the database, images have completely different protocols for transmissions.

Accomplishments that we're proud of

Other than this, finding bugs were the most rewarding yet frustrating part of the experience, as we learned that nothing is more fulfilling than fixing a SIGBART fatal error. However, being stuck trying to solve that same error lends a feeling of hopelessness, and so the duality of the experience really appealed to us.

What we learned

By the end of development, we learned a lot about troubleshooting and teamwork, as even the most minor problems once seemed like impossible obstacles to overcome.

What's next for Spark

So far, our solution has the potential to save the state of CA millions of dollars because it solves a problem that would otherwise be addressed using expensive hardware systems that, as estimated by the California Public Utilities Commission, could cost well over five million dollars. PG&E has been proposing many solutions to this issue, but none have been passed because of the hefty price tags of these propositions. This is why we would like to create a second version of the application that can create a complete database of every utility pole in the state of California.

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