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Japanese team develops QR code scanning system to search for climbers in peril

A laser searchlight lights up a QR code on professor Yoshinobu Maeda's shirt at a Kindai University campus in the city of Nara. (Mainichi/Yasuhiro Okawa)

NARA -- A research team at Kindai University is developing a system to search for victims of mountain accidents and disasters by scanning a Quick Response (QR) code printed on climbers' clothes using a laser beam from a helicopter.

The team, which is conducting the experiment at a campus in the western Japan city of Nara, has successfully scanned the two-dimensional code from a distance of about 300 meters and aims to put the system into practical use in the near future.

The code for the system measures about 11 centimeters on each side and is made from a retroreflective material. The print employs the same principle as that for reflecting road signs and can be scanned by a powerful laser searchlight.

In responding to an actual situation, the team works on the assumption that a large laser emitter will be loaded on a helicopter to scan the mountain surface. The machine can spot a QR code from the light reflected from the ground. It's possible to identify a disaster or accident victim if their personal information, such as name and sex, has been registered with the code.

The system is being developed by a team consisting of scientists at the Faculty of Science and Engineering, and the Faculty of Architecture at the university.

Team leader Yoshinobu Maeda, a professor with the Faculty of Science and Engineering, said, "The system is technically advanced to a level where it can be introduced. The problem is how we spread its use. It's necessary for many people who enter mountain areas to wear clothes with QR codes and for helicopters to be equipped with laser searchlights."

(Japanese Original by Yasuhiro Okawa, Nara Bureau)

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