Cloud 66 is a small company, and as developers, we love to see our code have an affect on the real world. One especially noble cause is a project called Safecast, whose goal is the collection and distribution of radiation measurements to empower people with data about their environments. Safecast raised over US$100,000 on Kickstarter in the summer of 2012, blowing through their US$4,000 goal, and have since been able to collect over 14 million data points around the world!
It all started during the 3/11 Fukushima nuclear disaster that released huge amounts of radiation into the atmosphere. Frustrated with the lack of information and data available at the time, Safecast co-founders Sean Bonner, Joi Ito and Pieter Franken set out to change this. The high cost and low supply of geiger counters at the time made data collection extremely difficult, so Safecast decided to put together and distribute their own device.
Soon thereafter, they had people all over Japan collecting data at a much higher frequency than what was available. One of their devices for example could be attached to a car, and took a reading every 5 seconds with GPS coordinates, making it easy to collect data over large distances. As Sean Bonner explains, radiation is a granular measurement and averaging readings across a city don’t provide a complete picture of the situation.
And the data collected truly made an impact - Safecast were the first to publish data that the wrong places around Fukushima had been evacuated! The initial evacuation zones were in perfect 20 and 30 km circles around the power plant, and Safecast data made clear that there was severe contamination as far as 80 and 90 km away! Once this data was published, the government swiftly published similar data and acted upon it.
The lack of data surrounding radiation isn’t limited to Japan, and Safecast’s growth shows this. During the Los Angeles San Onofre nuclear power plant leak in 2012, Safecast data for example made clear that there luckily wasn’t radiation in the environment surrounding the plant.
Safecast hosts theirAPI on Cloud 66, which makes all their data available under the CC0 license. This means that
anyone can query or download the data and use it for anything they wish. Safecast has started a citizen mapping movement for radiation, putting life-critical information in the hands of the people. We’re sure that the availability of this data will help people make more informed decisions during disasters, and Cloud 66 is really proud to be a small part of this.