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Japan radiation monitoring goes crowd, open source

Safecast will be aggregating data from existing sensors while deploying more geiger counters.

Safecast.org seeks to aggregate worldwide sensor information
Screen capture by Eric Mack/CNET

A new open and crowdsourced initiative to deploy more geiger counters all over Japan looks to be a go. Safecast, formerly RDTN.org, recently met and exceeded its $33,000 fund-raising goal on Kickstarter, which should help Safecast send between 100 and 600 geiger counters to the catastrophe-struck country.

The data captured from the geiger counters will be fed into Safecast.org, which aggregates radiation readings from government, nonprofit, and other sources, as well as into Pachube, a global open-source network of sensors. Safecast is one of the larger crowdsourced monitoring efforts, not unlike a similar effort in the United States that predated the Japanese disaster.

Safecast plans to deploy hundreds of geiger counters in Japan. Safecast.org

For the last month, the Safecast crew and volunteers have been collaborating with universities in Japan and driving their geiger counters around the country and taking measurements. Safecast's early monitoring trips north of Tokyo returned some disturbing findings, including elevated radiation levels in a kindergarten classroom.

The project is the brainchild of Marcelino Alvarez and Portland, Ore.-based social/mobile developer Uncorked Studios. Alvarez writes on his blog about how he and a few others brought the idea for Safecast from concept to launch in 72 hours as a response to his "paranoia" over radiation and the lack of available information as the events in Japan were unfolding.

The Kickstarter funds will be used to fill in some gaps in radiation sensing in Japan where no data is being captured.

"Some of those are very close to Fukushima while others are well outside of Tokyo," Alvarez writes in his Kickstarter pitch. "The initial set of devices will be utilized in areas where coverage is sparse. We will deliver these devices to people on the ground who have been trained in how to use them. It could be a teacher, a university student, or a citizen scientist looking to contribute to the project."

Alvarez's long-term vision is a network of monitoring devices feeding independent, uncensored information back to Safecast. Looks as though the nuclear age has finally gone open source.