As a result of last month’s earthquakes and tsunami, many areas of Japan have been left without even the most basic necessities such and shelter and power. To begin to offer assistance to the thousands of victims who are facing a long road ahead, Tokyo Hackerspace has started to develop ten projects with other hackers worldwide. Currently, their works include everything from solar powered lanterns, an evacuee shelter in Kamogawa, hygiene packs, solar phone chargers for disaster regions, and more – but most notably it is their radiation initiative that deserves to be highlighted. Tokyo Hackserspace has begun to distribute a network of radiation monitors around the Fukushima nuclear plant, which has failed and been on high alert since the disaster struck. These homemade monitors will help to keep people apprised of the levels of radiation from the damaged plant.
The idea to create a network of radiation sensors came from the fact that, despite popular belief, many people in Japan have little access to the radiation risks of Fukushima – especially important for those who need this information the most. Akiba, one of the hackers who lives in Tokyo, found that while his city was relatively unharmed by the quake itself, he started to see a bit of a panic in the city after the crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant began. “Unfortunately, there was not much news on what the safety implications were at the time and many people got paranoid,” he said. “That’s when you started seeing people flee Tokyo.”
Tokyo Hackerspace launched the day after the disaster and has worked to expand the sensor network with Safecast (formerly RDTN) and Geiger Maps JP, two sites that aggregate and visualize radiation data. The project focuses on collecting and distributing more up-to-date radiation information than is being released by the government in an effort to keep Tokyo residents calm.
The first utilized Geiger counters were procured from Reuseum, an Idaho business that recycles old technology to new homes. Tokyo Hackerspace flew the counters in and started their hackers on reworking the sensors. The hackers were required to take on the complex process of getting the Cold War-era Geiger counters to feed radiation data onto the Internet. The procedure involved finding a way to convert the analog Geiger counter to give off a digital signal and then determining how to send that signal out to be shared on the Web.
Since their first hack just weeks ago, Tokyo Hackerspace has developed much more sophisticated tools and even started to work with various partners to get radiation data to the public. Tokyo Hackerspace has managed to develop a simpler Geiger counter kit using the open-source Arduino platform (an easy-to-program microprocessor that’s a DIY community favorite) along with a Geiger docking device for the iPhone. The team’s goal is to expand the sensor network out from Tokyo into the Fukushima region where there is a lack of monitoring equipment and individuals are concerned about the current state of radiation they may be exposed to. Tokyo Hackerspace also hopes that the system will be able to evaluate the effects of long-term, cumulative exposure over the course of months and even years.
If you’d like to support this project you can make a contribution via kickstarter.
Via PC World