I’m sure you remember the powerful 8.9 magnitude earthquake that ravaged Japan earlier this year. Some 20,000 people were left dead or missing as a result of it. Imagine how less devastating it could have been if there were a better earthquake warning system in Japan.
That’s the idea behind a new feature introduced in the most recent iOS5 beta. Thanks to Apple, iPhone users in Japan will be able to turn on an early earthquake warning system that will notify them when Japan’s earthquake warning centers detect an earthquake.
When Japan’s earthquake warning system detects an earthquake (usually a couple minutes before the earthquake hits), a warning will be pushed to users’ devices through their carrier. In this way, earthquake warnings will spread more quickly and widely.
The Japanese text above warns of shortened battery life as a result of this service. That makes sense, as your phone would need to be constantly connected to The earthquake warning system. As David Daw pointed out, battery life seems like a small price to pay for the protection that the service would provide you with. Heck, that problem could even be resolved with an iPhone case with a battery in it.
The system isn’t perfect, though. It is occasionally unreliable, as Japan’s earthquake warning system doesn’t always detect an earthquake when it should. Sometimes it detects an earthquake when there isn’t one, which could cause much panic. Other times, the earthquake isn’t detected until it has already hit.
There are already several apps on the app store that provide similar services, but they aren’t as convenient (and probably not as accurate and fast).
Why Japan? Why not in other countries? Most likely, Apple thought that Japan was the best place to start, and they will roll out similar features to other countries in the future.
Oh, and in related news, a 6.0 magnitude earthquake lightly struck Japan this morning. It was centered about 140 miles off the coast, and there was no Tsunami.