The Japanese cell-phone market is notoriously one of the most saturated in the world. The Japanese government is looking to see what new uses can be made of this, and has approved a research scheme from mobile company Softbank that will use GPS enabled mobiles to simulate the spread of a virulent disease.
The test will be run over a few days in an elementary school, in which all the children will be given GPS phones. A few of the students will be randomly (and secretly) selected to be “disease carriers”. The movements of all the phones will be recorded – and at the end of the test period, this will be used to determine who has been in contact with the carrier, and who has contracted the “disease” themselves. The parents of these students will then be notified via SMS that their child was one of the infected.
Softbank hopes that this method could be applied to real world outbreaks of a disease – the real-time spread of an outbreak could be measured, and people who were at high risk could be warned and advised.
From the release:
It’s an interesting proposition, certainly, but I can see a few problems with it right off the bat. First, not everyone will have GPS phones. It’s fair bet that most people in Japan will have them, but if your test group requires you to create an unrealistic scenario (ie, giving everyone in Japan a GPS phone) then the results will be off. Second, and most importantly, exactly how many people would be excited at the thought of the government tracking them all the time? Get your tinfoil hats out, this one could spark a tidal wave of conspiracies.