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CNET Smart Home
City turns to hackers to quell house firesHackers in Louisville, Kentucky, worked with the city to create CASPER, a wireless device that listens for smoke detectors in abandoned buildings and sends text messages to let authorities know there could be a fire.
[MUSIC] This is not an investment. This is where we intend to, well, we're going to stay until we die, you know what I'm saying? There are about 8,400 vacant properties in the city of Louisville, Kentucky and they can cause problems for homeowners like George and Gail Drummond. Who live next door to an abandoned house. I went around to the back and I boarded up some stuff, because they had torn it off. Now my problem is they're going back there and they are using drugs. Evidence is back there. A lot of vacant property fires are Caused by squatters or illegal activity, and by the time a neighbor notices a fire has started in a vacant property, it's often too late. About some time ago, we were in our house and the neighbor across the street looked out over at that house and he saw flash and flames. If he hadn't been sitting on his porch, What would have happened, cuz we were in the house. We weren't even thinking about it. [MUSIC] The city turned to the local civic hacker community to a solution to vacant property fires. Casper is a device that listens for smoke detectors. Sometimes we call it a smoke detector detector [LAUGH] And so basically what it is, it's got a microphone. It listens for the specific frequency that smoke detectors signal at. And then it sends a signal to the cloud, using a cell modem. And we process that flag, and we send a text message and calls out to city governments, to myself, to neighbors. And they get a notification that says, [MUSIC] This making houses on fire, it needs attention. But take care of the problem before it becomes a bigger problem. The city has placed caspers and smoke detectors in eight abandon houses to test the system, Solar panels keep the caspers running. And you can see them in the windows, or hanging from the awnings of the test houses. And Cathra was a great idea. Thus far we haven't had any problem with it and it would be great to see it funded and rolled out too all of our vacant metro properties, especially in neighborhoods and areas that have a high number of vacancies. It's a good thing for that alarm to be up there because we are laying up here asleep and we don't know We don't know, yeah Until the firestruck is out here Flashing red, you see what I'm saying? The pilot program runs through March, then the city will decide if it's worthwhile to put more caspers [SP] in vacant houses throughout [INAUDIBLE]. The more device we can put inside these houses. The more coverage you have in a neighborhood. And that helps people feel safer and feel better about their living situation. It would just break my heart if I come home and that side of my house is burned or my house is burned down. At least we know somebody's looking out for us. Uh-huh. And trying to do something. [MUSIC]