Earthquake & Tsunami App Could Save Japanese Lives
In this photo released by NOAA, a boat lost in the Japanese tsunami of 2011 sits onshore on a remote Canadian island. The boat was discovered Aug. 9, 2012.
CREDIT: Kevin Head
Forget Angry Birds and fruit-throwing ninjas, there’s a new smartphone app in town that’s on a serious mission. Internavi Report, the new data-reporting app from Honda, allows drivers in Japan to share information about evacuation routes and driving conditions during a natural disaster.
The new Android and iOS app, due out at the end of March, is part of an update of the Japanese carmaker’s Internavi system, a vehicle information and communications system (VICS) that provides Honda drivers in Japan with real-time traffic information.
Honda’s Internavi was first made available in domestic models in 1997, but this update, which affects smartphone apps on mobile devices registered with the VICS, makes it easier for drivers to use the system during a natural disaster.
A press release from the company states that the new features use information gathered during the Tohoku earthquake and resulting tsunami in 2011, a disaster that left more than 16,000 people dead and severely damaged Japanese transportation systems.
Internavi Report is a crowdsourced data-collecting application that allows users of Honda’s Internavi LINC and Honda Moto LINC systems to post and share information about disasters, weather, traffic accidents and road closures. Users can add comments to one another’s posts, allowing further updates to real-time reports.
The company has also updated several pre-existing apps available through the Internavi system, including an expanded version of its tsunami advisory app. The updates to this app allow users to receive location-specific notifications of tsunami warnings issued by the Japan Meteorological Agency.
Tsunami warnings, which are sent directly to mobile devices registered with the user’s vehicle, are available even when the app is not in use. The app also includes a safety confirmation option that sends a user’s exact location to selected contacts. The user can update his or her safety status for friends and family via their smartphone or in-car navigation system.
The American Red Cross, along with several state agencies, has similar apps available for smartphone users in the United States. But the Honda apps, which use information gathered in 2011, also provide up-to-date information on evacuation routes accessible by foot.
Honda teamed up with a volunteer group from the Japanese consultancy group, Nikken Sekkei, to create revised evacuation maps for use during a natural disaster. The group worked with individuals in communities affected by the 2011 earthquake, who provided valuable information about evacuation sites, routes, and approximated times needed to evacuate on foot.
In the event of another emergency, these updated maps will automatically be sent to smartphone users with Internavi apps. Honda’s updated apps are an example of how app developers are using locally sourced information to provide life-saving apps to users of mobile technology.