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Radiation Detecting Android Phone Coming To Japan 133

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the also-detects-invasion-by-mothra dept.
itwbennett writes "Softbank, Japan's third largest carrier, has teamed up with Sharp to create a radiation detector chip for the latest model in the company's popular, bare-bones Pantone line of smartphones. The chip 'can detect gamma radiation in the air at doses of between 0.05 and 9.99 microsieverts per hour,' according to an IDG News Service report. 'The phone then uses its GPS to place readings on a map. Due to go on sale in July, it runs Android 4.0 and features standard functionality for Japanese handsets, including mobile TV, touch payments and infrared transmission.'"
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Radiation Detecting Android Phone Coming To Japan

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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @11:53AM (#40155953)

    Seems to me that's it's too low on both the top end and bottom end. You couldn't use it for detecting real hotspots on the top end and it's so sensitive on the bottom end that even exposure to direct sunlight will have everyone panicking. I think it's more likely to cause irrational behavior than help.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I think it's more likely to cause irrational behavior than help.

      It's made to capitalize on irrational post-Fukushima fear. There's no legitimate reason for anyone (who's not a researcher or a nuclear plant employee) to be carrying a radiation detector around with them all the time.

      The device is made to be extra-sensitive because if it didn't pick up something, people would feel silly for having bought one. (Which they should.)

      • Yeah, these are going to sell like hotcakes. Not because they are useful, but because people are terrified of the possibility of being "exposed to icky radiation".
        • Yeah, these are going to sell like hotcakes. Not because they are useful, but because people are terrified of the possibility of being "exposed to icky radiation".

          I'm certain that their sales will be immediately undercut by cell phone cases that include radiation-detection badges. Only the paranoid-1337 will spend the extra to have detection fully integrated into their phone.

      • by Thanshin (1188877)

        There's no legitimate reason for anyone (who's not a researcher or a nuclear plant employee) to be carrying a radiation detector around with them all the time.

        Unless you're a spy who might become the target of the russian secret service. Or you live on the apartment next to a spy who might become the target of the russian secret service.

        And you never know whether you live next to a spy who might become the target of the russian secret service, so...

        • by Anonymous Coward

          i have a sneaking suspicion you possibly the only person to be expecting the spanish inquisition...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        "there's no legitimate reason for anyone... to be carrying a radiation detector."

        unless you wanted to receive data from numerous locations in real time detailing the exact dispersal of radiation at ground level.... which i would think to be a very useful information.

        just as japan is swarmed by people carrying camcorders providing the most recorded footage of a tsunami ever known...

        invaluable data i would think.

      • by Alwin Henseler (640539) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @12:34PM (#40156565) Homepage

        There's no legitimate reason for anyone (who's not a researcher or a nuclear plant employee) to be carrying a radiation detector around with them all the time.

        I call BS. You might as well say "There's no legitimate reason for anyone (who's not a researcher or a nuclear plant employee) to be carrying a detector for NOx levels" or something like that.

        You live in an environment, and you're interested (for whatever reason) to measure 1 aspect of that environment's condition. That's all there is to it, and that's all the 'legitimacy' you need.

        For that purpose the range seems appropriate... I've got a radiation chart here, some figures from lower end of the scale:
        0.1 microSv - airport security scan (backscatter X-ray)
        0.25 microSv - airport security scan maximum permitted
        1.0 microSv - using a CRT monitor for a year
        5.0 microSv - dental X-ray
        7.5 microSv - per day in Tokyo, 250 km SW of Fukushima plant
        40 microSv - Flight from New York to LA
        100 microSv - chest X-ray

        So that sensitivity range seems reasonable - note the "per hour" in there. Not radiation levels that would put you in hospital with 3 weeks to live, but the kind of levels above background that might be a concern longterm. Having a sensor that allows you to measure that throughout the day, wherever you go, sounds more useful than spot checks or relying (solely?) on government-provided figures.

        Whether you should bother, what levels are safe, etc, let people figure that out for themselves. I don't see any harm in adding some datapoints...

        • 0.1 microSv - airport security scan (backscatter X-ray)
          0.25 microSv - airport security scan maximum permitted
          1.0 microSv - using a CRT monitor for a year
          5.0 microSv - dental X-ray
          7.5 microSv - per day in Tokyo, 250 km SW of Fukushima plant
          40 microSv - Flight from New York to LA
          100 microSv - chest X-ray

          Do you know anything about the Port of Oakland's scanner (in the San Francisco Bay Area) for trucks carrying containers? I have a truck driver friend who has to drive his truck through that scanner every time he picks up a container from there. Apparently, it's not that bad for him because he does long routes and doesn't go back and forth from the Port that often, but he knows some other drivers that have to come back from that Port up to 10 times a day on some of the busier days.

        • by sjames (1099)

          The airport security max would peg the detector since 0.25 uSv in 1 minute = 15 uSv/hr. Of course the CRT won't even register. The dental X-ray will certainly peg it. Tokyo, normal airport security scan, and in-flight will fall within its range (all at the upper end).

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          You live in an environment, and you're interested (for whatever reason) to measure 1 aspect of that environment's condition. That's all there is to it, and that's all the 'legitimacy' you need.

          You seem to be taking the libertarian view that because it is not forbidden to do something, therefore you should do it to prove you have the right to do so.

          OP wasn't saying you shouldn't be allowed to have radiation detectors, only that they are of no sensible use to most people, and this is just exploiting to people's fear to make some money. But, hey, that's not illegal, so it must be OK right?

      • It's made to capitalize on irrational post-Fukushima fear. There's no legitimate reason for anyone (who's not a researcher or a nuclear plant employee) to be carrying a radiation detector around with them all the time.

        As I consider myself an arm-chair ocean conservationist, I have been horrified by the increase in popularity of sushi over the last 2 decades, and the steady decline of the bluefin tuna population which has only narrowly escaped the endangered species list as a direct result of overfishing. Now, I can only hope that the trendy raw fisheaters continue their disgusting culinary habit, and if not become extinct themselves, at lease will be prevented from reproducing. [google.com] Care for some sushi, friend?

        • by Cyberax (705495)
          Uhm. There are other species of fish than bluefin tuna. I really like sushi but I certainly won't eat bluefin tuna, dolphinmeat (no. freaking. way.) sushi or any other endangered species. I also like farmed fish.

          Of course, if we need to ban fishing completely to preserve wild fish then so be it.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        Yes, those pesky plebes should be kept way from technology and science.

        All Radiation detectors detect something, if set to a sensitive setting. That's because three is always some radiation.

    • by Jeremiah Cornelius (137) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @12:11PM (#40156227) Homepage Journal

      This phone is a ruse, to captalise by make people think they can manage this. In other words, it is a comfort item, not an actual safety measure.

      It also works as a propaganda item. "Testing radiation levels is the new normal, it's even on my phone, see!" The management of public perception is far easier than the management of spent fuel in reactor 4.

      The real, long-term prospect for anyone living in the Fukushima shadow is too horrible to contemplate.

      The new, official story - just made public - [reuters.com] is that the initial release from TEPCO was 2.5 X higher than was admitted at the time. If this is what they are recalcitrantly admitting to, after incontrovertible evidence, how bad is it really? After all, the utility and the government both demonstrate they cannot be trusted to prefer health and safety over saving-face.

      So? Buy a phone and whistle past the graveyard...

      • by vlm (69642)

        This phone is a ruse, to captalise by make people think they can manage this. In other words, it is a comfort item, not an actual safety measure

        Well thats just foolish, of course its useful if its sample rate is fast enough. I strongly encourage my genetic competitors in the race of evolution to not worry about exposing themselves and their kids to excess radiation.

        Hold it over each farmers market table and buy from the one with the lower reading.

        Concerned about lifetime exposure? Wave it over a granite countertop and then a corian countertop and tell me which you want in your food prep area.

        Its like saying fire extinguishers are a ruse because t

        • by h4rr4r (612664)

          The granite one, it will last longer and look better.
          The levels of radiation you get from one are nothing to worry about.

          You must never get a dental xray or dare go near the fruit in the supermarket.

          • by vlm (69642)

            Granite doesn't look good once its got "some wear and tear" and its soooo stereotypical 00's housing bubble (kind of like avocado appliances screamed 70s) that its not cool anymore. So Corian for me.

            I'm hardly in the class of FUD'ed WRT to radiation. None the less if I lived in Japan and one farmers market table pinned the needle on my phone and the other one was normal, I'd choose the normal one.

            • by h4rr4r (612664)

              Corian just looks cheap though. I really prefer commercial stainless steel counters. Way more practical.

        • by toQDuj (806112)

          Radiation itself is not contagious. Food prepared on a granite countertop may have one or two more cells with slightly higher levels of damaged DNA than normal, but is not radioactive in itself.

      • by cpu6502 (1960974) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @12:20PM (#40156359)

        Samt thing happened on 9/11 where the government claimed the air was safe to breathe, but then people started getting sick, so the government had to admit it lied. What use is having regulation if the politicians or bureaucrats simply ignore them (or lie)? Regulations don't work because the regulators aren't doing the job

        • Regulators use their favouritism towards the regulated, to secure employment with those subjects at a later time - often as influencers on future, toothless and industry-biased regulation.

      • by Bill, Shooter of Bul (629286) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @12:20PM (#40156363) Journal

        I'd love to be scared by the radiation release at this point, as I enjoy a good fright, but how many people have died to date of exposure to the radiation? How many people will die as a result of the exposure? Will it really top the loss of life on the day of the earthquake? Is it worse to be exposed to that much radiation, or the amount of toxic agriculture pestiside and industrial era polution crap I live with every day in the suburbs?

        We are surrounded by risks of many types both within our bodies genome, the enviornment, and behaviors we have. I just can't wrap my head around hyper focusing on one and ignoring all the others.

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          Well, the reality is we don't know for sure. Japan saw a lot of people get sick from radiation in the past and telling people now "we don't know if you will be affected" isn't exactly reassuring.

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          how many people have died to date of exposure to the radiation? How many people will die as a result of the exposure? Will it really top the loss of life on the day of the earthquake?

          The earthquake and tsunami were acts of nature, and unpreventable. The shitty design of the nuclear power station was a man made catastrophe, and entirely preventable.

          In life, you should concentrate on things you can have some control over, and ignore all the potential accidents about which you can do nothing.

      • by squizzar (1031726)

        Well since the WHO don't seem to have found any particularly nasty areas ... not that bad? Safety standards are set incredibly low and this generates an intense pressure to give out the lowest possible numbers when reporting radiation. If there was less irrational panic then people might be more honest about the numbers. Think of it this way: It's at least 2.5x as bad as it was declared to be, maybe a whole lot worse (as you seem to think) and yet there are no discernible health effects (except those ca

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Too horrible to contemplate?
        A few cases of thyroid cancer?

        Way to blow this out of proportion.

        • Wait for the three headed babies.

        • According to a documentary they're showing at the moment, Chernobyl - after well over two decades - is currently inhabited by mutated zombie like beings. It's not really surprising people would be concerned.
        • by tehcyder (746570)

          Too horrible to contemplate? A few cases of thyroid cancer?

          Way to blow this out of proportion.

          I'm glad that you have been able to travel into the future and calculate the exact number and severity of casualties. Now we can all stop worrying and learn to love nuclear power.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        The World Health Organization released its own study this week concluding that residents around the Fukushima plant had been exposed to up to 20 times normal background radiation in the first year after the accident. That was still within the WHO's recommended emergency limit.

        Yes, absolutely horrible. How many calculated phantom deaths are we at now?

        We easily expose ourselves to 100,000x as much carcinogens in every day life, out of sheer ignorance, but a anything with word radiation is horrible.

        1. People were moved out of danger area
        2. People are kept at a safe distance

        Compare this to something like Bhopal, where no one gives a shit if thousands and thousands keep drinking heavily polluted ground water around that disaster that are outside any safe limit set by any agency. Oh w

        • by tehcyder (746570)

          Compare this to something like Bhopal, where no one gives a shit if thousands and thousands keep drinking heavily polluted ground water around that disaster that are outside any safe limit set by any agency.

          Being concerned about the potential long term health risks of a radiation leak, and being concerned about the plight of poor people horribly treated by a large multinational corporation are not mutually exclusive.

      • The real, long-term prospect for anyone living in the Fukushima shadow is too horrible to contemplate.

        Yeah. Maybe 0.4 extra people will statistically get cancer 30 years from now that wouldn't have gotten it anyway. Oh wait, I've contemplated it.

        The new, official story - just made public - [reuters.com] is that the initial release from TEPCO was 2.5 X higher than was admitted at the time. If this is what they are recalcitrantly admitting to, after incontrovertible evidence, how bad is it really? After all, the utility and the government both demonstrate they cannot be trusted to prefer health and safety over saving

      • yeah, no Japanese have the experience of living in Irradiated conditions...
      • by gullevek (174152)

        I don't believe what TEPCO says anyway.

        Just follow Safecast. They do proper radiation measuring:

        http://blog.safecast.org/worldmap/#/?&stv=true&mv=true&dt=true&cc=%235aa2d2&mz=8&lat=36&lng=140 [safecast.org]

    • irrational behavior is great for sales. this wasn't designed by scientifical scientists who know science, it's the equivalent of cricket cellular in japan. they're years ahead of us in being a technological society over in japan, so your phone manufacturer is the first person you think of when you suddenly need radiation detection:

      "I received many tweets asking for some way to detect radiation" after the disaster, said Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son at a press conference in Tokyo. "So I decided, 'let's do it.'"

      "fuck, why not?" Son continued, "we almost launched a phone that microwaves your food while it's in your mouth, but this fukushima disaster made that obsolete pretty quickly. we

    • I'm curious about the failure mode at the top end...

      I'm not saying it matters a lot, the likelihood of being exposed to an instant onset source of 10 or more is so close to 0 as to be effectively 0. It would however be extremely bad form if the sensor simply reports 0 (either due to software limit checking or the sensors failure mode alone) when the dosage is in fact 15microsieverts.

      • Before anyone jumps down my throat I left out the word "unexpected"

        Yes, I realize there are many things that you could expose yourself to (even for valid reasons!) that would top this thing out, I am referring to unexpected sources.

    • by vlm (69642)

      Sure about your numbers? "one micro" is in the background range (which varies from place to place by about two orders of magnitude total), so 0.05 is a pretty good low that will probably never be reached. High enough that bananas won't set it off unless you bake it into a loaf of banana bread, but low enough to tell that you're in a normal area.

      I agree the high end is ridiculously low. That thing is going to go bonkers if you have it in your pocket while getting a dental xray. You read stuff on wiki abou

      • "one micro" is in the background range (which varies from place to place by about two orders of magnitude total), so 0.05 is a pretty good low that will probably never be reached. High enough that bananas won't set it off unless you bake it into a loaf of banana bread, but low enough to tell that you're in a normal area.

        Umm, no. Typical daily background in 10 uSv. Which is 0.4 uSv/hour.

        Which is considerably above 0.05 uSv/hr.

    • by na1led (1030470)
      Too much sunlight is not good, so maybe it will make people more conscious about what they do. I can see this being useful in letting you know if you've been in the sun too long.
    • Seems to me that's it's too low on both the top end and bottom end. You couldn't use it for detecting real hotspots on the top end and it's so sensitive on the bottom end that even exposure to direct sunlight will have everyone panicking. I think it's more likely to cause irrational behavior than help.

      Hmm, it detects any dosage above ~0.05 uSv per hour, eh?

      A quick check of my XKCD radiation chart, and I find that a normal day's exposure is 10 uSv, which corresponds to an hourly rate of 0.4 uSv.

      Soooo...thi

      • by macshit (157376)

        No it will be "reading low" pretty much all of the time — which is what people expect. People are in general malinformed about radiation, but the concept of non-zero background radiation is not so unknown, especially in Japan after 3/11.

        Normal background radiation in the Tokyo area is about 0.15 uSv/h, so just at the bottom of this phone's range, but enough that people can see it's working.

    • Yeah, seems like you'd want to know the difference between getting 9.99 microsieverts and, say, 100 millisieverts per hour. :)

    • by geekoid (135745)

      It will immediately make people aware that 'radiation' is like everything else. It's the dose that make the poison. That would go a long way to reducing unreasonable fear of radiation.

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        It will immediately make people aware that 'radiation' is like everything else. It's the dose that make the poison. That would go a long way to reducing unreasonable fear of radiation.

        An accumulation of (relatively) low doeses can still poison you. That's why they measure the limits for nuclear power workers (and X-ray technicians and so on) on a cumulative or per annum basis, not just as one-off maximum allowable doses.

    • by gullevek (174152)

      It will sell and make more money for Softbank.

      And you get Dog slippers. How could you say no to that ...

      But at the end the service is so crappy, that you can't use that phone for anything else anyway.

    • by wrook (134116)

      Totally, but if I can hook get the tricorder app to measure the data my nerd credentials will go through the roof! If only Softbank had a good enough infrastructure to deliver telephone calls to my appartment...

  • by swschrad (312009) on Wednesday May 30, 2012 @11:56AM (#40156007) Homepage Journal

    if they get up to a half mS, you probably get pop-up ads for the closest pharmacy with iodine pills.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Seriously, what if there's some excess air pollution, airborne plague or other atmosphere issue?

    Would you really want to be kept from making phone calls?

    So act now, and get a hands-free filter mask that goes on in seconds without interrupting your conversation.

    Note: Device will serve no purpose in the event of a zombie outbreak.

  • I'd like to find out how much radiation they are putting-out, before stepping through, to make sure they are not malfunctioning & emitting killer levels.

    In the meantime I'll just avoid them and go through the breast/penis/pussy grope. 1 minute of embarassment is preferable to developing a slow death through cancer.

  • IIRC, decent dosimeters require re-calibration at least yearly if not more often. (Sounds like they don't respond well to sudden shock and this increases accuracy drift.)

    I wonder how SoftBank is going to handle this. I don't think people are going to appreciate a test sample being delivered to their home, and I think employees wouldn't appreciate it in stores/kiosks. I know 7Elevens sell everything in Japan, but not sure this is going to fit in well on the kombini scene.

    Similarly, I don't think having the p

    • by Baloroth (2370816)
      Why bother calibrating it? Just have them buy a new phone every year. Win-win, as far as Softbank is concerned (for that matter, the consumers might not even mind that much).
    • by vlm (69642)

      Depends on the tech. Those old fashioned static charged human hair things were awful. Geiger tubes used in a high flux environment need it pretty bad. Geigers in general need it ... sorta, due to long term gas leakage and quench gas issues. solid state is not nearly as drifty.

      Its kind of like measuring length and declaring that since my old gauge block set technically required annual recertification that means no one would ever buy a wooden ruler, because how would be ship them all to Starrett

  • That'd be a nice 'bonus' application, to add some entropy by using it as part of a hardware random number generator.
  • Since Cell Phone produce some radiation, will it warn us if we have been on the phone too long?
    • by vlm (69642)

      If your phone produces ionizing radiation you're doin' it wrong.

      The concept of a tritium backlight for cellphone is strangely appealing to me. Occasionally you see a promotional bling-phone that costs $50K or whatever which is merely a plain old $200 phone encrusted with $49800 worth of ugly gold and ugly gemstones. But a tritium backlight would be so freaking expensive it probably would be a genuine $100K phone that really internally contains $100K worth of stuff (stuff in this case being H3).

  • I would think the first course of action if you're worried about radiation poisoning is to move to a place where this app would be useless (ie: low or no radiation from human sources).

    Although, knowing our wonderful eastern friends, they're probably trying to make nuclear superheroes and this chip/app/phone is just a means to sniff out the Hulk from the general population. I'm assuming it can detect gamma radiation as well, so obviously we should put it to it's best use.

    • by toQDuj (806112)

      Run away? Emigrate from Japan? I heard this from a Japanese w.r.t. the earthquake and nuclear situation: "Yes, it sucks, but it is home after all so you try and make do". Outside the stricken areas (i.e. pretty much outside tsunami-ravaged bits of land) people do not worry much about radiation (though those that do get the spotlight) and pretty much go on with their lives. There is also a lot of independent monitoring going on, which has caught the occasional contaminated foodstuffs, but nothing more seriou

      • by DeeEff (2370332)

        No one is really looking for the Hulk here.

        Well, that's dreadfully disappointing. Here I thought I'd at least get to SEE a superhero before I die. Now I only get to dream about it as gamma ray cancer eats my brain to death.

  • So the new android phones in Japan has ICS and can prevent cancer. What now apple? WHAT NOW?
  • = Godzilla Foursquare Mayor of Tokyo.

  • So, there's 4 types of ionizing radiation. Gamma is only one. Is Gamma the type which is mainly radiated by the isotopes of concern? Or because that's the easiest/cheapest to create a detector chip for, so they slap one in a phone, creating a 1/4 solution to the problem, and market it to the public as a more or less total solution to the problem?

    For the particular case of detecting reactor isotopes, is Gamma radiation even particularly useful?

  • by geekoid (135745)

    Can I get this in the next Nexus?

  • Today, radiation is a scary mystical thing, partially because people don't realize how common it is. Perhaps by having these detectors everywhere people will learn that radiation isn't the frighteningly scary thing that the media tells them it is. They will start measuring radiation everywhere: their friends, them selves, their electronics, the air, the soil, the rain, their mom's Fiestaware, their Grandma's Depression Glass. And they will start to see statistics and patterns. When they don't suddenly c

  • I'm more concerned about Alpha and Beta radiation. Both are far more dangerous to human tissue. Of course they are also significantly easier to shield against.
  • I find it fascinating that there is so much misinformation and misunderstanding about what harmful radiation is (some is not as harmful). If you are insterested in learning more about the link between cell phones, EMF radiation and cancer, watch this video: http://emf.lemuriangirl.com/ [lemuriangirl.com]

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