Protecting Residents from Serious Flood Damage in Indonesia--River Water-Level Measurement System Using Smartphones and AR Technology

Indonesia Vulnerable to River Flooding and Flash Floods

Indonesia, located in the southern part of Southeast Asia, is a country with the largest number of islands in the world. It is the fourth most populous country with a population of around 230 million people. Located in the tropics, Indonesia has a rainy season that lasts from November to March. As flooding damage increases during the rainy season, the monitoring of river water levels and responses taken when water levels reach flood-warning levels are topics of interest.

Towns located downstream of rivers are particularly vulnerable to damage from flooding. Manado in North Sulawesi, which faces the sea, has four medium-sized rivers flowing through it and is vulnerable to flash floods and river flooding due to heavy rain. In January 2014, large-scale flooding and landslides claimed a number of lives.

To minimize the damage, the Manado government had been observing rainfall, river water levels, groundwater, and weather data three times a day at 96 locations. Manado local government workers visually monitored and recorded river water levels; however, this method lacked accuracy and immediacy. The government also implemented telemetry systems to monitor river water levels by installing outdoor sensors, but the systems were difficult to use on an ongoing basis due to the high cost of maintaining the equipment.

Field Trial for River Water-level Measurement Using AR Technology and Smartphones

System Image

Fujitsu Limited and PT. Fujitsu Indonesia have built a river information system that incorporates augmented reality (AR)* technology for Manado, Indonesia at the request of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Indonesia Office. Fujitsu, together with the River Basin Organization Sulawesi I, Ministry of Public Works and Housing (PU-PERA BWS Sulawesi I), conducted a field trial to evaluate “whether accurate information useful for preventing and mitigating disasters can be gathered” and “whether quick recording and sharing of changes in the river's water level through this system enables effective assessment of conditions for managing rivers.”

In the field trial, a system allowing standardized measurement using AR technology and a smartphone application was used. When the observer directs a smartphone camera to an AR marker installed at an observation point, a scale is displayed on the screen, and the observer can perform a simple operation, such as tapping on the screen, and send accurate water levels, on-site photographs, comments on the water levels, and other data to the data center server.

As a result, it has become possible to send accurate water levels at observation points in real time. Also, those responsible for taking measurements can observe water levels from a safe location and on-site photographs can be stored as evidence. This trial showed that water level observations using AR technology and a smartphone application is very effective. In addition, the system has been evaluated as effective in that there is no need to maintain sensors and the amount of labor required for managing operations can be reduced through the transition into a cloud environment.

The river administrator in Manado said, “The concept of reporting measurement values using a smartphone is advantageous because it is easy to use, easy to implement, and easy to get effective results,” and “unlike conventional methods, the water-level measurement method using AR allows observers to check photos of measured water levels in real time and save them as records, which is a tremendous advantage.”

Water-level measurement using AR technology

* Short for augmented reality. AR technology combines information from human senses (the five senses) with digital information gained through the use of ICT to expand and strengthen human perception.

Dangerous river water-level observations can be carried out safely using AR

Measuring water levels from a location close to the river might be dangerous. However, with this system using AR technology, anyone can accurately measure water levels with time records based on common standards from a safe location far from the river. If the water reaches flood-warning levels, the system displays an alarm, which is sent to the mobile phones of local government disaster prevention workers. If this system is implemented in Manado, residents can monitor river water levels via the Internet and voluntarily evacuate without actually having to go to the river to check water levels.

Fujitsu will contribute to ensuring safe and secure living by using ICT for disaster prediction and reinforcement and repair planning for rivers.