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Local app monitors Japan radiation

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The Latest
Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Portland-based Uncorked Studios has been getting a lot of press lately — CBS news, the BBC, Time and Fast Company, among others. But what’s drawing the attention isn’t another project for Nike or Wieden+Kennedy; it’s something the team put together in their free time — a website to monitor radiation levels in Japan after the tsunami disaster, which caused damage to its nuclear plants.

“We’re very idea-based individuals. We had an idea, and it took off,” says Marcelino Alvarez, founding partner of Uncorked.

The website, RDTN.org, receives data from a handful of partners, including Japan’s ministry of education, culture, sports, science and technology. It also encourages users on the ground to take radiation levels and submit them to the site. Not much user-data has been submitted, says Alvarez, partly because prices for radiation detectors have skyrocketed on sites like Amazon.com. The data coming from users is also more difficult to verify compared to credible partners.

RDTN.org displays the data on a google map embed and updates levels every 10 minutes. The site took 72 hours to initially build, and has had more than 172,000 unique visitors since it’s launch in late March. “We are amazed of how positive the response has been,” says Alvarez.

The entire Uncorked team has stepped up and are putting in more hours working on the website, says Alvarez. But he doesn’t see it as a distraction from billable client work, “This has been such an energizing project for the company,” he says.

The team is so serious about this that they’re looking into incorporating the platform as a nonprofit and have sent their creative director, David Ewald, to Japan to meet with contacts on the ground. They are also considering purchasing and installing radiation sensors in Japan to assure the continued stream of accurate, reliable data.

With the multitude of agile, creative firms in the Northwest, it will be interesting to see if such mission-driven spin-off projects become more prevalent.

Ilie Mitaru is a contributing writer for Oregon Business.


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