Japan Issues Earthquake Warning Six Minutes Before Tremblor

On December 14, 2012, in News, by with SRA International

Last week’s earthquake off the coast of Japan brought to mind the devastating earthquake and tsunami that slammed into the island nation in 2011. While this earthquake caused relatively little serious damage, and thus becomes just one of many earthquakes to hit Japan over the year, there is one point that is particularly noteworthy: residents were warned a full six minutes before the earth shook. Continue reading »

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Mexico's New Seismic Alert System

Yesterday, The Economist published a story online about a new BlackBerry app just launched in Mexico City that gives citizens advance warning of earthquakes, usually providing people a minute or more to seek shelter. Mexico City experiences earthquakes throughout the year, most of which originate on the countries Western coastline. A version of this system recently alerted a session of Mexico’s Senate of impending tremors, giving them time to evacuate the building. Continue reading »

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This is the last in a series of 4 reports on the recent National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Convention held April 9-14 in Las Vegas, NV.

All of us are familiar with the recent switch of all U.S. TV stations to Digital TV (DTV), now offering us a clearer widescreen TV picture at home. A follow-on to that DTV transition is an additional specification called Mobile DTV (mDTV). The mDTV transmissions come from your local TV stations just like the DTV signal you view at home, but mDTV is a separate signal meant strictly for mobile reception. Mobile DTV is being rolled out by commercial TV stations in 20 markets this year. In addition, $2M in funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) will assist Public TV stations in 20 markets to launch mDTV. Manufacturers such as LG, RCA and Samsung are already making dedicated mDTV receivers with three- to five-inch screens, as well as portable DVD players with embedded mDTV tuners. Adapters for mDTV are also hitting the market for use on laptops, tablet computers, and the iPhone and iPad. Of course the “killer app” will be mDTV on cell phones. LG is leading the way on that effort, having already developed the needed chip for cellular handset integration. Handset makers are now in the process of finding real estate within their handsets for the chip and we should be seeing mDTV-enabled cellular handsets soon. Some of the cool new mDTV features shown at the NAB Show included 3D TV without glasses, interacting with the show you are watching via Tweet-TV, on-demand shows using NRT (non-real-time) technology, and virtual coupons you can scan at a local store right from your smart phone.

Great, but what does all this have to do with Alerts & Warnings? Well, in an NAB session I sat in on there was a lengthy discussion by guest speakers from Japan on how well Mobile DTV worked in their country during the recent earthquake and tsunami. When citizens felt the shaking and opened up their cell phones for information, they found that cellular service was down – but Mobile DTV was up and running, since the signal comes from local TV stations not the cellular towers. The public could watch real time video of the happenings in the affected area, getting current information on demand. At the end of this convincing session, Public Broadcasting System (PBS) Chief Technology Officer John McCoskey announced that PBS will be participating in a year-long pilot program to deliver emergency alerts using audio, video, text and graphics via Mobile DTV. PBS will partner with LG Electronics, and its R&D lab Zenith, which will develop mDTV devices and will fund the project. Also, CPB will provide matching grants to local public TV stations for the mDTV transmission equipment. This new system will be different, and in addition to, the Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS) which delivers only text messages via the cellular network infrastructure (referenced in my previous NAB reports). The pilot messages will be CAP-compliant and will be integrated with the FEMA IPAWS system.
Link to the PBS Press Release: www.pbs.org/about/news/archive/2011/mobile-dtv-eas/

A different session at NAB highlighted yet another warning method used in Japan for emergencies, DTV Datacasting. This is data that is delivered to your home TV, and then displayed on your TV screen. A demonstration was shown of the system in action during the earthquake; the normal program picture reduced to one-quarter-size and the rest of the screen was emergency data such as evacuation routes or shelter locations. During non-emergency times, the system is used by local officials on a daily basis for routine community announcements to increase public awareness of the system. While this system would be another excellent example to follow in the U.S., it was disappointing to hear that the data is based on Japan’s own TV Common Markup Language (TVCML), not the worldwide standard Common Alerting Protocol (CAP).

We hope you’ve enjoyed our NAB 2011 Reports on AWARE – see you next year.

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Social Media in Japan

On March 29, 2011, in Featured Posts, General, Social Media, by with SRA International

The Global Post’s recent article about the use of social media in devastated Japan, Japan tsunami disaster: As Japan scrambles, Twitter reigns, echoes the same sentiment I’ve had lately regarding social media:

It seems no natural disaster or revolt can pass without an examination of Twitter, the free internet social media service that lets users type out news, rants, epiphanies or cries for help in 140 characters or less.

Of course, some of this information isn’t exactly an examination or critique. If you Google “Twitter Japan Tsunami” you’ll have to wade through link after link about Hollywood celebrities tweeting about the recent events in Japan (yawn). However, if you know where to look, you can find some very interesting information about the use of social media in Japan right now. AWARE’s members have certainly had a lot to say about the value and use of social media in disasters lately. Apparently, so has the rest of the world.

Slate published an article titled, The Best-Laid Plans…. The story isn’t so much a critique of the use of social media since the disaster but more a snapshot of how the Kesennuma City Crisis Management Department worked to amass Twitter followers and keep them engaged in the topic of emergency preparedness well before the recent earthquake and tsunami events. Kesennuma City is in complete ruin, but the tweeting continues.

Ushahidi has, of course, deployed its services in Japan — it also has begun blogging about its work. A recent post shows a heat map of its deployment. It appears that well over half of Japan has been impacted by the earthquake and tsunami events.

(While you’re on Ushahidi’s blog, I encourage you to check out its series titled, “Recent Deployments and Lessons Learned Part 1 and Part 2.”  More to come on this two-part series in another post!)

Even the media is using social media to cover the disaster…and of course they are writing about it, as evidenced by the BBC’s aptly titled article, Using Twitter to cover the Earthquake in Japan and USAToday’s Japan: Twitter earthquake and tsunami updates from the ground. In fact, Scientific American used the tweets and Facebook status updates of the local population to report on Japan’s “online panic” caused by the nuclear crisis.  The media may be on to something here. As more reporters flee Japan due to fears of nuclear contamination, we may see them rely more heavily on first hand social media accounts in place of on-the-ground journalists to report the news.

I’m sure the coverage and critique of Japan’s use of social media during a disaster has only just begun, especially now that Japan’s Office of the Prime Minister launched its own Facebook page this week…in English.

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The following is a synopsis of the OGC document Sensor Web Enablement Application for Debris Flow Monitoring System in Taiwan.

Debris flows are a major issue in Taiwan. A debris flow is a fast moving mass of unconsolidated, saturated debris that looks like flowing concrete. They differentiate from a mudflow by terms of the viscosity of the flow. Flows can carry debris ranging in size from clay particles to very large boulders.  A debris flow can be extremely destructive to life and property.

There are two reasons for the occurrence of debris flow after a strong earthquake. One is that the land collapses after earthquake and the soil gets mixed with groundwater or surface runoff. The second reason is that many crevices are formed in the earth surface after earthquake and hence, when the groundwater level increases or surface runoff concentrates, the land collapses and debris flow occurs.

Since 2002, the Soil and Water Conservation Bureau, which is responsible for the conservation and administrative management of hillside in Taiwan, has been cooperated with Feng Chia University. Together, they have successively carried out the establishment and maintenance of 13 fixed debris flow monitoring stations over the island and 2 mobile debris flow monitoring stations.

The advanced monitoring instruments include rain gauges, wire sensors, geophones, and CCD cameras. A rain gauge is used to record on-site rainfall. At the moment, the warning model for the debris flow alert uses rainfall intensity and accumulated precipitation as warning indexes to determine whether rainfall has reached the threshold and thereby the application provides timely red and yellow alerts to high risk areas where debris flows are likely to occur. As a debris flow moves down the channel, the flow will then break wire sensors placed in the spillway of diversion dams, hence indicating the occurrence of debris flow. Further, when a debris flow occurs, the geophone can detect the ground vibration generated by the collision between boulders and channel bed. The result of wavelet transform analysis can then serve as references to determine the occurrence of debris flow. Finally through the CCD camera, the hydrological process of debris flow can be vividly recorded.

The physical architecture of the sensor networks used in the Taiwan debris flow application is as follows:

The application was designed and developed to incorporate a variety of standards from the OGC and OASIS.

Standard Name Version Organization
Sensor Model Language 1.0.0 OGC
Observations and Measurements 1.0 OGC
Sensor Observation Service 0.1.4 OGC
Sensor Planning Service 1.0 OGC
Sensor Alert Service 0.9.0 OGC
Web Notification Service 0.1.0 OGC
Web Map Service 1.3.0 OGC
Web Feature Service 1.1 OGC
WS-Trust 1.3 OASIS
WS-Security 1.0 OASIS

Below is the high level abstract architecture for the debris flow monitoring system.

The OGC SPS interface standard is used to task sensors, controlling their sample rates, sample times, what observation information to return, and checking whether they are operating correctly. According to the task that is submitted to the SPS enabled application, the Debris Flow Monitoring System will controls the relevant sensors and their observing framework.

The OGC SOS interface standard provides a standard interface for requesting and receiving one or more observations, or data collection. The Debris Flow Monitoring System collects observation data from sensors which are then further processed in a variety of models. The response from an SOS is an Observations and Measurements payload.

The OGC SAS candidate standard is used to support subscription, publication, and transmission of alerts. The Debris Flow Monitoring System modeling application is used to decide whether debris flow will happen. If the answer is “Yes”, it will send an alert via the SAS enabled alerting application.

The debris flow monitoring system uses the OGC Sensor (SWE) standards. This enhancement has changed the way of collecting, fusing, and providing the debris flow data. Before implementation of the OGC sensor standards, observation data was burned to CD or utilized E-mail way to the user. In the future the user will use the SOS to retrieve the information data via debris flow monitoring system and receive alerts.

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