iPhone/Android geiger counter commercial product
This project aims to produce a commerical iPhone/Android portable geiger counter with the specific goal of it being produced, packaged and shipped by a "community initiative" based in Fukushima, Japan.
The "community initiative" means a co-operative style of business in Fukushima (referred to subsequently as the "Fukushima co-operative") where all profits are shared by the community not a select set of individuals. Initially, the involvement of the Fukushima co-operative might be limited to packaging and shipping of an already complete product. Over time however, the Fukushima co-operative might take responsbillity for assembly, design and build of a "Version 2" product etc. You never know but given the difficulty in sourcing quantities of geiger tubes around the world, there might even be an opportunity for a manufacturing capability for tubes to be developed in the area. It is hoped that this will be one of many projects that can assist in the regeneration of the Fukushima area by stimulating new jobs.
This project leverages the work already done by members of this forum as well as RDTN.org. This project thread will be used to disseminate details of the design, progress of the project as well as calls for knowledge assistance.
Basic Product Description
A small portable geiger counter adapter that plugs into the docking connector of an iPhone (all references to iPhone imply a corresponding capability with Android-based devices) for use in detecting ambient levels of radiation and specific radiation levels of items within the immediate environment of the user e.g. water, foodsuffs, soil and others. The device will necessarily need to be reliable and reasonably accurate but it is not intended for scientific purposes nor use within harsh industrial environments. Hence the design can be relaxed in a number of areas. The device will be powered by the iPhone and hence is only capabable of measurement when connected (there is a thought about having a standalone device continuously collecting readings and dumping to an iPhone on demand - this might well be the end solution but simplicity is being kept in the forefront for now).
The iPhone itself will maintain a database of radiation readings based on time and the location of the device. There will also be a capability to send readings up to the internet (e.g. Pachube, RDTN) for crowd sourcing intiatives. The adapter will have a slidable/rotatable window that can be used to selectively eliminate alpha and beta radiation from the measurements thereby allowing the user to gain an understanding of the composition of the radiation.
Initial Design Concepts
Availability of quantities of geiger tubes is an issue but, notwithstanding that, it is assumed that the adapter will be based around a pancake style geiger tube, for example as a reference, the Canberra halogen quenched devices http://www.canberra.com/products/438336.asp
The electronic circuitry will be housed within the adapter enclosure itself and therefore needs to be kept as small as possible. A variety of designs are available for generating the tube HT; CFL inverters (as per the current THS design), voltage multiplying ladders etc. Size and stabiity will be the final determinants.
Interfacing to the iPhone will most likely be via USB (this is built-in to the iPhone docking connector) but analysis of a selection of Android devices is needed before a final determination can be made. Interfacing by audio is always a possibility but that would prohibit the device being capable of detecting radiation in a standalone configuration and dumping to the iPod when connected. Bluetooth communication is another possibility that has the advantage of not needing special licensing from Apple (to develop the adapter) since there is no physical connectivity between the two devices.
Initial thoughts are that the device should be able to make readings in the range of 0.01uSv/hr to 10uSv/hr. This corresponds to levels that are well below a typical background radiation reading through to a level that is well above the maximum in any one year for a radiation worker.
This needs to be kept as low as possible with a target at the time of writing of $100 for hardware and software. It is not known at this moment if this price point can be met. This will be one of the early issues to be addressed.
iPhone software will be downloaded from the iTunes store. Orders for the adapter will be handled via a Fukushima co-operative owned website with an on-line shopping capability. Payment will be through the usual channels; credit card or PayPal.
Last but not least, this product will be unabashedly marketed as being produced in Fukushima by a community co-operative and might even carry cheeky slogans like "Made in Fukushima, Japan. Tested at source" Promotion of the product will be largely done by seeding internet search engines with appropriate keywords. No paper-based promotion is being considered at this time but it is confidently expected that a product like this, manufactured in this unique way will attract media attention from around the world and will be largely self promoting.
UPDATE April 22nd.
The most important issue that has emerged is commercial in nature, not technical. So this is likely to bore folks...
Met with Canberra today to talk about availability of pancake GM tubes. They agreed that the pancake tube is the best for surface contamination monitoring but pointed out that, for background monitoring, translating a counts-per-minute into a meaningful measure of potential bodily harm (Sieverts) would require calibration of each device. In the end, however, they were very excited by the concept of the project and said that they would "give us" pre-calibrated devices if we could ensure that the legal entity structure was sufficently well defined. They also said that they would like to see the involvement of the Fukushima prefecture in the project to "bless" the project. I'm not sure what they mean by "give us" but, at a minimum, I would expect that we could get aggressive pricing from them. They are not aware of any competitive products manufactured in Japan. They say that Japan does manufacture high-end military and industrial grade devices which are not what we want here.
Later I spoke with a large financial services company (name withheld until they commit) about micro-financing. I have a meeting scheduled with them on Monday of next week to present the concept to them.
Also need to get the involvement of a university in Fukushima prefecture. The university would provide students to design the business process (receipt of product, orders, packaging, shipping, accounting etc.) as well as technical skills for writing the iPhone application, oversight of the QA and testing processes (the testing might need access to radioactive sources so the Uni could help out here as well).
The largest obstacle to this (as I imagine it) is the government. THey may have some fears that everybody in Fukushima is going to be running around with geiger counters in ther hands and..... I think I will talk to JETRO on Monday to get their view. If I can get central government support first then Fukushima will not be a problem.
You may want to talk to Safecast because that's basically what they are doing at the moment. As for calibration, I'm still fuzzy on it. Most tubes are characterized and provide a conversion factor from CPM to mR/hr. This is a dosage rate. Calibration was originally done on the analog counters to make sure the deflection of the meter corresponded to the correct CPM due to analog drift.
Otherwise, its possible to hold a tube a fixed distance from a check source, but I haven't found a conversion from uCi to CPM or uSv/hr.
Also, the $100 price point will most likely not be met if pancake tubes are used. Safecast (formerly RDTN) has about 200 pancakes at the moment. Those are $100+ each wholesale and in quantity. To do $100 for a complete unit, you'd need to find a much cheaper tube.
Anonymous - thanks for the two comments above. I have been trying to talk to Safecast but haven't actually got a dialogue going yet - it will happen soon. Price point - $100 was thrown out as a target but with little idea as to its practicality. If it needs to be revised, so be it. I think the key goal would be to get a price point that was lower by a margin than other commercially available devices. Let's wait and see what price Canberra are prepared to provide the tubes for.