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Business

IT giants sending disaster prediction systems to Southeast Asia

Jakarta uses technology to guard against disaster.

TOKYO -- Fujitsu, IBM and other major information technology companies are deploying disaster mitigation systems to Southeast Asia, a region prone to flooding and earthquakes.

     Screens covering walls at a disaster prevention center in Jakarta show live updates on river water levels and a massive amount of other data, all closely monitored around the clock. Fujitsu delivered this disaster information management system at the end of last year.

     "To protect citizens from disasters, we wanted to be able to gather information and make decisions quickly," an information science manager at Jakarta's disaster prevention agency says.

     The system instantly collects water level data from 14 monitoring sites by major rivers in the city region, predicts possible flood locations, and issues evacuation orders. The pace is a night-and-day difference from before, when data took five days to collect via radio.

     The disaster prevention bureau chose Fujitsu from among eight bidders for the company's experience in Japan. Fujitsu has installed similar systems at 10 regional governments, including Hiroshima and Ishikawa prefectures. The installation price is estimated at tens of millions of yen, and the company plans to promote the system in other countries as well.

     A new disaster management system integrating Twitter and GPS was launched in the Philippines this spring. A disaster prevention center in greater Manila follows tweets from community residents via an on-screen map, using the GPS to obtain location information. Surveillance cameras in the city provide a picture of what is happening.

     This is a cutting-edge weather-forecasting system that IBM brought to the country free of charge -- the same as the one deployed in Rio de Janeiro back in 2010. As data accumulates, the accuracy of disaster prediction will be enhanced and the order may be expanded, a technologist at IBM Philippines says.

     Just two months after the IBM system's Philippine debut, a powerful typhoon battered the country. The system predicted landslide locations and helped reduce damage to a certain degree, according to the Department of Science and Technology.

     NEC won a roughly 1 billion yen ($9.1 million) order in March for a system to detect volcanic and seismic activity. Set to begin operating in February 2015, the system will consolidate data from seismometers and tide gauges in around the Philippines onto servers for continual monitoring of volcanic activity.

     Hitachi began trials this May of a flood prediction system in Vietnam. When rainfall and other conditions are entered into a computer, proprietary technologies identify areas that will be submerged.

     The Asia-Pacific region is at extremely high risk of disaster. Asia recorded 1.8 million disaster-related deaths between 1970 and 2012 -- more than half the global tally.

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