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Safecast Logs its 15 Millionth Crowdsourced Data Point for Radiation Mapping

BY Jessica McKenzie | Monday, February 10 2014

In the wake of the 2011 earthquake and the Fukushima nuclear disaster that followed, residents of Japan needed a reliable source of information about radiation levels. Unfortunately, information was either unavailable or withheld from the public. The need for data compelled concerned citizens to create their own, and the need to take their own radiation readings compelled them to make their own Geiger counters. Safecast was born. Last month the global project logged their 15 millionth data point, with no sign of slowing down soon.

Safecast is like the Wikipedia of radiation mapping. It was started by Pieter Franken and began as an email thread between his two friends, journalist and entrepreneur Sean Bonner and MIT Media Lab Director Joi Ito. They wanted to aggregate the data on radiation levels post-Fukushima, but they found there basically wasn't any.

Next City reports:

The data that was available was either copyright protected and couldn’t be shared, or was meant for scientific research and largely irrelevant to human health. In Tokyo in March 2011, radiation was only measured from a single point: a 22-meter-high tower in Shinjuku, which Franken felt was almost useless, not least of which because people spend most of their time on the ground.

The next steps were like a tech fairy tale. People put their heads together to brainstorm; a custom Geiger counter was designed and built at a hackathon; their kickstarter campaign was overfunded. By October 2011 Safecast had logged one million data points and just two years later, in June 2013, they had logged 10 million. Last month it was 15 million.

Although still focused on Japan, Safecast has extended their mission to determine a radiation baseline for the planet and to gather information on other environmental factors, like air quality.

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