Advanced tools give closer look at quake dangers

New data analysis tools from Japanese companies let users detect earthquake warning signs and calculate buildings’ chances of collapse using aerial imaging technology and smartphone accelerometers.

Business software provider SAP’s Japanese unit has developed a way to measure a building’s movement during tremors using acceleration data from smartphones on walls and other surfaces. Hakusan, a maker of measurement instruments, contributed technology to the project.

Compiling and comparing readings from buildings will help locate structures more likely to collapse in a major earthquake. These danger points are mapped and shared via smartphone. SAP will on Thursday begin offering the technology to companies and local governments at no cost.

Aviation company Nakanihon Air Service, meanwhile, has found a way to create high-resolution ground maps using laser survey devices on unmanned aircraft. The devices send out 500,000 laser pulses each second across a wide field of view, drawing surface data from reflected light. That information can be used to build 3-D models of cliffs and remote mountainous regions, revealing faults and landslides not apparent from photographs. Local governments and construction and engineering firms will be able to purchase the system within the year.

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