Amsterdam Fire Department: The use of Big Data analytics in fighting fires

Amsterdam Fire Department: The use of Big Data analytics in fighting fires

How Amsterdam Fire Department uses Big Data in practice

Bart Van Leeuwen, a senior firefighter with the City of Amsterdam Fire Department, who also runs the data consultancy Netage, has for several years championed the use of “linked data” in firefighting. The concept is that fire departments should collect as much data as possible through the technology which is becoming available – for example, Internet of Things sensors attached to fire engines and pumps. But the concept also applies to making as much of that data as possible available in an open and readable format to the public, so creative minds can devise life-saving new applications.

One of the first projects, initiated a number of years ago, involved putting together what became termed the “Firebrary” – a standard library of firefighting terms, which can be shared between departments to ensure they are literally speaking the same language. This was a vital early step, because otherwise, no matter how big and exciting their data set gets, everyone has to be interpreting it through the same lens, or insights and predictions could be based on a flawed analysis.

In addition, predictive modelling can be used to build up a picture of the risk profile of the area where an incident is taking place. Data taken from fire hose sensors and personal protective equipment, can be used to build models for assessing risk.

When Van Leeuwen’s fire department commissioned new engines two years ago, one of the primary requisites was that they should be “open data fire engines”, able to collect and feed information on how much water they are using, how full tanks are, how much diesel is left, and the gas composition of the air.


Ideas and insights you can steal

The task facing the Amsterdam Fire Department is now to put all of this technology to work and come up with more effective models for getting information to the firefighters who need it. And that’s a critical lesson for businesses – even the most impressive data set is useless if the insights from that data don’t filter through to the people that really need it.

You can read more about how organisations are using Big Data to drive success in Big Data in Practice: How 45 Successful Companies Used Big Data Analytics to Deliver Extraordinary Results.



Written by

Bernard Marr

Bernard Marr is a world-renowned futurist, influencer and thought leader in the field of business and technology. He is the author of 18 best-selling books, writes a regular column for Forbes and advises and coaches many of the world’s best-known organisations. He has 2 million social media followers and was ranked by LinkedIn as one of the top 5 business influencers in the world and the No 1 influencer in the UK.

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