In the still-lingering aftermath of last year’s Fukushima nuclear crisis, a U.S.-based volunteer group has stepped in with a novel way to help those in Japan both measure radiation levels and map their locations. Sean Bonner, one of the founders of Safecast, says it was natural for them to want to help with information collection, which they have taken more than one step further. While Japanese people were terrified over health concerns, and the country’s government either wasn’t releasing information about radiation, or what it did release wasn’t accurate, Bonner’s team created an updating visual database available online.
Only weeks after the Fukushima disaster began, Safecast created handmade Geiger counters with GPS capabilities, barely larger than your average smartphone. When attached to cars, they measure radiation levels every five seconds, and pair the readings with location data. There are currently between 30 and 35 mobile devices in use in Japan, and another 320 stationary units. Safecast made the technology open source, meaning anyone use and adapt it, and put their database of readings online, so anyone could contribute to or modify for their own purposes, such as those who have combined with online maps. To date, there have been more than 3 million readings taken.
Bonner says he was surprised at the lack of data available during the crisis. In Actuality, Safecast was one of the first to get any real information to the people of Japan. A year and a half later, and now Safecast has an explosion of volunteers in Japan, and around the world. They currently plan to continue focusing on Japan, but would one day like to move up to the global level in terms of providing data. The group has won numerous grants, and now works with Japanese universities, Fukushima’s local governments, and their data is used in schools and shared with residents.[Via SF Gate]