Japan to get Android phone with built-in radiation dosimeter
'Think of your children and buy my phone', says CEO
Japan's third network operator, Softbank, has outfitted its latest mass-market handset with a radiation dosimeter, proving that the inscrutable Japanese are just as vulnerable to fear-driven advertising as the rest of us.
"I hope that mothers of children will feel safe by carrying this smartphone" said the operator's CEO Masoyoshi Son during the unveiling, posing in front of, tastefully blurred, aerial photographs showing the devastation caused by last year's tsunami. But the detector isn't a gimmick being sold as an extra, such as the one demonstrated by DoCoMo last year, this will be a standard feature of the latest Pantone handset - the most popular model sold by Softbank (iPhone excluded).
Masoyoshi Son poses with local celebs and another Softbank handset
The Pantone 5 is made by Sharp, and follows a series of feature phones bearing the same name and range of colours. This version is Android based, and has a waterproof coating while remaining small enough to be "comfortable to hold for women, because this Pantone can be carried with one hand while doing something else".
A special button on the front of the Pantone 5 launches the radiation detector, as demonstrated an hour into the operator's press launch, which geo-tags the level in microSieverts per hour and uploads it to the Softbank cloud. There's much mention of the isotope Caesium-137 during the press briefing, but the use of microSieverts/hr suggests that the detector is a dosimeter measuring radiation dose from all sources as opposed to an actual Caesium-137 detector which would be expected to read in Becquerels. That said, any detectable radiation from the Fukushima incident would probably result mostly from the presence of long-lived Cs-137 from the breached cores at this point, so it's not unreasonable to mention the isotope in this context.
Hefty boffinry mag Nature recently reported on a comprehensive study of the Fukushima incident which established the radioactive materials leaked will mean an undetectable increase in cancer rates amongst 170 workers at the plant and no danger to anyone else beyond that - but that's reality while mobile phones are sold on aspirations and (in this case) fears.
The Pantone 5 will sell well in Japan not because there's a real danger of radiation killing anyone, or even because of media-fuelled paranoia: the handset will instead capitalise on the lack of trust between the Japanese people are their government. Fukushima might not have killed anyone but it got people really frightened, and frightened people will buy things to allay their fears.
Softbank says it wants customers to "feel safe", and as long as there are no false positives then the detector will probably help. It’s just a shame that reassurances from the Japanese government don't have that effect. ®
This gadget is a good idea
I would rather like my phone to have a Geiger counter in it.
In fact, I think that such gadgets will do much more for improving public perception of nuclear safety that any amount of reasoned explanations by specialists.
When you know you can detect and measure something mysterious and dangerous whenever you want it stops being mysterious and dangerous. When you try time and time again and all you see is the absence of danger you become reassured. When an accident happens elsewhere and you know you can check the things directly without trusting someone else telling you don't feel the need to panic. And the accident itself becomes an unfortunate event, like a fire or a landslide but which will not cause the Earth to open under your feet and the creatures of Hell to come out and the Sun to grow dark and red with a pentagram on its face and DOOM music in the background...
Re: Radiation, the new terrorist paedophiles.
Just this morning on the BBC News they were dramatically "reporting" how tuna caught in California is contaminated by Fukushima fall out, with the "report" being accompanied by pictures of mutant tuna zombies swimming inexorably to poison the Pacific Coast waters and cause the end of the world as we know it.
Then, at the end of the piece, they just casually mentioned that the "contaminated" tuna is actually perfectly safe to eat...
Could be a dummy device
All it has to do is click every few seconds to simulate background radiation.
What's leftover from Fukushima would only give a few extra clicks and only if the detector's right on top of it.
The most radioactive thing anyone will ever encounter in their lifetime is probably hanging from your ceiling right now, staring balefully at you. (the smoke detector, not the giant mutant spider!). It's putting out thousands of times more radiation than anything you'll find even from Sellafield.