When natural disasters strike Japan, Ōita University’s EDiSON is ready to act

BrandPost By Michael Kure, SAP Contributor
Dec 07, 20235 mins
Digital Transformation

With the technology and assistance of SAP and Zynas Corporation, Ōita University built an emergency-response collaboration tool named EDiSON that helps the Japanese island of Kyushu detect and mitigate natural disasters.

Japan Tsunami Earthquake 2011
Credit: ArtwayPics

Over the centuries, Japan has endured more than its fair share of natural disasters – such as the Great Kanto earthquake of 1923 that resulted in close to 40,000 lives lost in downtown Tokyo alone and, more recently, the 2011 Tohoku quake and tsunami that devastated the northeast coast of Japan, killing 18,000 residents with approximately 20,000 more still uncounted for to this day.

Then there’s the southern island of Kyushu, the tail-end of Japan, which is particularly prone to increasingly frequent and more intense disasters such as heavy-rain events, typhoons, and earthquakes.

A nation known for innovative efficiency was a failure in one key area

It goes without saying that the faster and more effectively disasters can be forecasted, detected, and responded to, the better the chance of minimizing damage and saving lives. And the key to success is having data that can be analyzed for actionable insights.

But until recently, gathering accurate and timely data from multiple sources had been challenging for the local island governments because of a lack of equipment, process and format standardization, technology, and human resources.

In many cases, manual and paper-based processes had been employed for analysis at disaster sites, with resulting data being siloed. So, it was difficult to put the data to use when and where it was needed, affecting disaster preparedness and countermeasures.

Hard to believe that all of this was still happening to a 21st century country famous for its global precision and innovative solutions.

And yet…

EDiSON rises

Ōita University, a national university established in 1921 in Ōita Prefecture, Kyushu, was interested in building a data-driven solution for enhancing disaster-response capabilities. In 2017, the university created its Education and Research Center for Disaster Risk Reduction and Redesign that focuses on disaster relief – including disaster medicine, prevention education, and reconstruction design.

Partnering with SAP and Zynas Corporation, the university designed and implemented a hero’s solution that integrates and analyzes disaster-related data, including information about prevention and mitigation. The solution also facilitates collaboration among organizations involved in disaster response.

Named EDiSON – an acronym for the cool-sounding Earth Disaster Intelligent System Operational Network (like something out of the old Ultraman TV show I used to watch as a kid) – the solution incorporates data management, advanced analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning capabilities offered by SAP products, including SAP HANA® Cloud.

“EDiSON provides an important way forward to achieve advanced disaster preparedness and countermeasures,” says Professor Yoshihisa Tsurunari of Ōita University. “The solution has wide application for disaster response, prevention and mitigation education, and reconstruction support, helping improve global and regional disaster prevention.”

EDiSON preparedness and countermeasure solutions are GO

The solution brings together data from various sources and in multiple formats. There’s real-time and historical information from private and public sectors, including data from evacuation centers as well as more than 5,400 Ōita prefecture records of disasters from the past 1,300 years.

The data is gathered from paper records and advanced technology such as drones, the Internet of Things (IoT), and AI, live and static. Access to the solution and data has provided the Ōita prefecture, private companies, and municipalities with an advanced disaster-response capability. 

EDiSON’s surveillance superpowers

During normal times, EDiSON records weather-forecast data up to 15 hours ahead and observation data from IoT seismometers. Information from all sources is integrated and accessible from a central location. 

By analyzing the data with AI, EDiSON can evaluate the degree of disaster risk and provide disaster forecasting in real-time, alerting authorities to the danger of an imminent event so that evacuation orders can be issued quickly and efficiently. So far, the solution has increased details about disaster-response risk by 40% over traditional methods.

With EDiSON, teams can plan disaster-prevention awareness measures with a better understanding of the potential impact of events. It also can help enhance communication and collaboration between teams.

A vigilant sustainability hero for disasters today and the future

“EDiSON has great potential as a solution that leads to the sophistication of disaster countermeasures,” says Fumio Okamoto, Director of the Disaster Prevention Bureau, Ōita Prefecture.

“We have high hopes that the EDiSON initiative will become a platform that will lead to the improvement of disaster resilience in Japan and the world,” says Shinya Honda, Chief Manager of the Advanced Technology Challenge Division, Commerce, Industry, Tourism, and Labor Department, Oita Prefecture.

For EDiSON’s accomplishments today and its potential for the future, SAP has named its creator, Ōita University, a Sustainability Hero in the SAP Innovation Awards 2023. For more information, take a look at the university’s Innovation Awards pitch deck.