Safecast is a set of open source tools to measure, map and share radiation levels. Safecast hopes to encourage people to actively contribute data that can alleviate environmental problems such as radiation. This initiative allows people to easily monitor their own homes and environments without dependence on external parties for this essential information.
Safecast is a set of open source tools to measure, map and share radiation levels. It was founded by Sean Bonner, Joi Ito and Pieter Franken after March 11th, 2011, when a 9.0 earthquake hit Japan and triggered a destructive tsunami which hit the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In an effort to help, the partnership decided to take part in surfacing data on radiation levels across Japan caused by the meltdown at the power plant. However, they quickly realised that most of the devices used by the public to map radiation were of poor quality, and that there were massive holes in the public radiation data sets available.
To address this they set up Safecast, which is both the name of the Geiger counter built by the open source community to help volunteers map data, as well as a global sensor network where Safecast owners can map and freely share their radiation measurements in open data sets, which are then used to visualize radiation levels. It is through this approach that Safecast hopes to encourage people to actively contribute to the generation of a body of data that could alleviate environmental problems such as radiation.
The bGiegie Geiger counter was the first measurement tool built by the community. It was built on the Arduino open hardware board, immediately after the disaster. The development was originally funded through the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, which helped finance the device and help launch the network where bGiegie owners could share the data they were collecting. Safecast then worked with Hackerspaces and used grant funding to update the counter. New versions include a counter which can be mounted on the side of a car and and a drone which can map radiation levels in areas that humans can’t access. The value and credibility of Safecast data was quickly recognized in Japan and abroad, allowing people to easily monitor their own homes and environments, and to free themselves of dependence on external parties for this kind of essential information. To date the Safecast network have used the geigercounter to map over 50 million data points, and they plan to continue playing a major role in the emergence of technically competent citizen science efforts worldwide.