It’s good to see the international tech community rally round Japan in the wake of the huge earthquake and resulting tsunami late last week.
The natural disaster wiped out communications infrastructure and damaged several subsea cables, including the APCN 2 cable, though service providers quickly re-routed traffic over undamaged cables to maintain Internet access. Wireless communications took the brunt of the hit, with power failures and overloaded networks causing severe congestion.
To circumvent the lack of steady cellular coverage, UK search and rescue teams will use TETRA handhelds from Sepura to help coordinate their attempts to locate survivors. The firm has supplied 50 units to searchers, which can operate in Direct Mode meaning no TETRA infrastructure is needed.
Other firms are focusing on streamlining the donations process, with Amazon on Friday turning its website’s secure payment platforms into Red Cross aid donation centers.
Google is also offering a Red Cross donation feature on a crisis response page that also offers a social network-style people finder service. The feature allows concerned friends and relatives to post the names of people they’re looking for, and those trapped in Japan to leave details if safe.
The search giant’s teams in Tokyo have also updated Google Maps to show where shelters are located, and has published lists of important telephone numbers.
“As someone who experienced the Kobe earthquake 16 years ago…I cannot forget the immediate desire for information,” Google Japan staffer Ken Miura noted. “There was no way to find out where people’s family and friends were, if transportation would be available…and most importantly, whether we would be able to find a shelter.”
The event also triggered disaster message boards from carriers KDDI and SoftBank. KDDI’s service allows users of its EZweb service to register a message with up to ten recipients on mobile or fixed networks, with SoftBank offering a similar set up via Yahoo.
While NTT DoCoMo hasn’t stated if its disaster board is up and running, it likely is as the boards automatically launch in any earthquake measuring six or higher on the Richter scale.