Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Some after-thoughts of an accident in the mountain in Japan

Japan is an exciting country, Tokyo a jumping city, thus, I took the chance of catching some more silence in the beauty of Nikko mountain. The weather was kind of bad, rainy and stormy, but we did not really care. Next morning when we departed from the shelter a Japanese joined us on the tour to Mt. Shirane. He was not in as good shape as we were but we could not leave him alone either. The paths had been in really bad conditions, really different from the Alps. Obviously, we were a little bit slower, therefore the Japanese was good help decrypting kanchi from sign posts.

On a very steep descend he suddenly slipped, slided down out of control and only came to stop 80m later.

He was tough guy took out a first scarfe and I helped him to get it over his 1.5cm bleeding wound on his head. I could reveal our position from the built-in GPS of my phone, gave it to my friend who continued hiking down to a spot with cellular coverage to call the rescue service. It took almost 2h until the rescuers came and got our wounded down to the valley.

Finally, we and, especially the Japanese, had been lucky, however, I spent some thoughts what could be improved and how technology help:

  1. My phone has GPS but there is actually *no* pre-installed application to query GPS location. Luckily, I managed to start a map application (Pocketmaps) that gave me the coordinates in some hidden options sub-menu. Still there is no simple way of just "send coordinate to...".
  2. Eventhough we had the coordinates the rescue services couldn't make sense out of latitude/longitude values. I still don't know why, I had the coordinates in the standard format WGS84 and the coordinates where right:
  3. My friend finally found out which number to call, in Japan it is 119. He could get forwarded and called back a few times. They also could give him an email adress where he could send images of the sign post and shrine close (to share kanjis of the sign posts he couldn't read) by his position. Today, there is no standardized emergency interface where you can send data to. We have shown some development for car accidents [1] but this sms/mms/email interface would be really required to make use of state-of-the-art technology in our pockets. Today emergency numbers are voice only.
  4. My friend accidently found cellular coverage. When I crawled up 10m back to the path to have a better space to wait, I also had very weak signal again. Couldn't we just collect locations in a public database of phone-calls being made in mountain and make that available to everybody? (Let's not discuss about full coverage, it's already worth something to have discrete locations were you can make calls - even network operators might like it and send out volunteers to measure signals). At a later stage that could be even marked in maps.
  5. Luckily, our phones had enough power. Years ago mobile phone adoption was driven by the need for safety, today that has shifted towards entertainment. However, in remote areas such as mountain it is still about safety again, eventhough the use pattern is different. Thus, couldn't the phone warn you while doing fun stuff as listening to mp3 "your phone can only guarantee you safety for ten more hours...".
  6. We both had priceplans for our phones. What happens if you run out of prepaid during an emergency call. Is there a simple way for rescue services to convice your operator to waive your limitation, I doubt it.

Our mobile devices today are far more powerful today than the landing gear of Apollo 11. Hence, let's make some effort of exploiting that not only for gaming and entertainment but for more essential applications, such as survival.


Anonymous said...

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Florian Michahelles said...

thanks - that's great to know, that it gets read at least by someone;).