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Japan harnesses mobile tech to fix 'flawed' disaster alerts

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Japan intends to launch a new disaster alert system to ensure the public can receive important emergency information on their mobile devices.

According to The Daily Yomiuri on Monday, Japanese government officials have said that a new disaster alert system will enable mobile phones, cable TV and other communication channels to automatically receive and transmit information should disaster strike.

The implementation of the J-Alert system arrives on the heels of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011. In order to try and improve organisation in such a scenario, J-Alert is designed to transmit anything from evacuation instructions to government reports. It may also include flood alerts, radiation reports, notifications on road reports and the status of available transport.

The current J-Alert system -- functional since 2007 -- has been criticized as a flawed and complicated system. Warnings are sent to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, which notifies local governments via satellite. After this is complete, disaster broadcast systems notify residents of risk areas via outdoor loudspeaker systems.

The Shizuoka and Hyogo prefectural governments ran a similar system as part of a pilot program. By forming agreements with mobile phone companies and television statements, mass e-mails were sent to cell phones, and alerts were displayed on television. It is believed this kind of system is more reliable than the older J-Alert system, which is costly and often left incomplete by cash-strapped local governments.

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry has requested 5 billion yen for the project in the next fiscal year's budget. Financial assistance will be offered to municipal governments that sign up from next year.

Image credit: Chi King

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— By on October 29, 2012, 6:19 PM PST

Charlie Osborne

Contributing Editor

Charlie Osborne is a freelance journalist and photographer based in London. In addition to SmartPlanet, she also writes for business technology website ZDNet and consumer technology site CNET. She holds a degree in medical anthropology from the University of Kent. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure