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Where did the XkyFire Lightning Service come from?

The XkyFire network is operated by Lifeskill Rescue Services, a rope-way evacuation services company based in Banff, Alberta. The ropes turn very dependably decade after decade, but, a lightning strike nearby stopped one in August 2013, and the rescue team was on the mountain until after midnight helping to sort things out. The question naturally emerged the next morning; how can we better prepare for electrical storms?

As it turned out, the question was not so easy to answer. In everyone’s mind it was quite simple … we needed a system that could sense lightning, and tell us when storms were approaching. Problem was, no such system really existed at the time.

The Canadian Lightning Detection Network, and on the U.S. side of the border the National Lightning Detection Network were setup to record lightning, but not to transmit forward that information in a manner that was useful for minute to minute decision making within commercial operations, and certainly with no specific focus.   Neither network did a good job of reporting the different types of lightning. Atmospheric and ground strikes were all lumped together into one bucket of information, and naturally we were only interested in the strikes that were dangerous to earthlings and our valuable stuff.

So, the decision was made to purchase a lightning detector. From which we learned that certainly we could sense lightning, but could not differentiate strike type or accurately identify proximity. To do those things we would need at least three, and ideally four, to begin sorting out the data. Displaying it for sensible interpretation became an issue at the same time, so a new website was born to fulfill that need too.

From four detectors we soon realized that more were needed because of power and communication outages that occur concurrently with storm activity. Just as we needed the ‘network’ the most, was when it was most likely to have components fail. So soon we had six, then eight, then ten detectors, and a progressively more complex website, that required ever more capable servers, and databases with more sophisticated architecture. Around the same time, something else occurred that helped drive the assembly of the entire service. People began to hear about it, and the capabilities it was providing, and the interest grew from local, then regional at first, to national, then international.

With the network in Western Canada, we could identify and accurately plot strikes that were occurring in southern Mexico. We could differentiate strike type because of the sensing system we selected. We could sense, track, plot, and display the information in a way that anyone could make sense out of intuitively.

AS of 2019, we have been able to provide dependable sensing coverage for all of North America, plus. Including the Caribbean, Central America, reaching out across the pacific toward Hawaii and beyond, and across the Atlantic to nearly the Azores. All with expandable server capacity with automated backups and system redundancy built right in. Sensors in Manitoba sometimes help correlate strikes in Ecuador now.

Map image from XkyFire showing +CG lightning approaching a deal-alert site near Memphis.

With, and this is the whole point of the network; the ability for users to create alerting sites specific to their needs, and receive in real-time, alerts and warnings about + Cloud-Ground lightning strikes derived from the XkyFire Network through the internet and cellular networks users are already connected to.

Makes sense now … today … in these super-connected times we live in. But that convergence of technologies; the lightning sensors, GPS receivers, internet and cellular networks, webpages, cellular phones, SMS text messaging and databases …. Well nobody was doing that in 2013. At least not with lightning.

So XkyFire was born.

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