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A group mapping Japan’s radiation data, turns to air quality data in L.A.

In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, a grass roots group called Safecast managed to put together a map of real time, local radiation data using volunteers with open sourced geiger counters. Now Safecast, led by Sean Bonner, has been awarded $400,000 by the Knight Foundation to create real time mapping of air quality data of Los Angeles. Yes, down the road, all you folks in L.A. will be able to check out a real-time grass roots map showing just how bad the air you’re breathing is in your neighborhood.

Safecast’s efforts in post-quake Japan, were pretty awesome. The team — which was almost all volunteers — created a grassroots network where concerned citizens in Japan collected radiation data using geiger counters. At the time, not a lot of accurate, or current, data was coming out about radiation levels in towns surrounding the Fukushima site.

The Safecast team even had designer and Chumby co-founder, Andrew “Bunnie” Huang, design an open source geiger counter that a manufacturer used to make a more consumer-friendly geiger counter. The open source geiger counter design managed to help Safecast raise over $100,000 on Kickstarter.

Bonner tells me via email that Safecast will similarly be working on designing a open source device to collect air quality data, to help people contribute local air quality data to Safecast’s grassroots map. Bonner says: “the benefit that air quality has over radiation is that the sensors are much cheaper and more readily available so we expect more people will be able to help out on their own.” Safecast will first focus its air quality mapping work in L.A., and then other cities in the U.S.

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