Japan deploys artificial intelligence to detect rip currents as beach season heats up | Japan

Early July is the cue for Japanese surfers and sun-seekers to hit beaches across the country – and one Pacific Coast beach is turning to artificial intelligence to make sure their time in the water goes smoothly. proceeds without incident.

Officials in Kanagawa prefecture, south of Tokyo, have introduced an AI system to identify rip currents – which cause 60% of drowning deaths – and send a warning to swimmers and lifeguards, according to the Mainichi Shimbun.

Yuigahama Beach, a popular beach in Kamakura City, which reopened on July 1 after two years of closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, is a well-known surfing spot and is expected to attract large numbers of people during this that the weather agency predicts an exceptionally hot summer.

Experts from the Japan Lifesaving Association and Chuo University in Tokyo collected current data over six months during the winter of 2021 to make sure the system was working, the Mainichi reported.

According to the lifesaving association, a pole-mounted web camera identifies a rip current and anyone swimming nearby, then immediately notifies a lifeguard via a smartwatch.

The images were also used to develop an alert system that sends government officials real-time information about bathers after a tsunami, the newspaper said.

The rip current measurement is part of a local campaign to revive the beach after the pandemic hiatus and bolster the area’s environmental credentials. Yuigahama is one of about 20 beaches in the prefecture that have been closed over the past two summers.

“Some beach huts haven’t been able to operate for two years and they can’t wait to start again,” said Mieko Konishi, president of the Federation of Kanagawa Beach Hut Owners. “We want to operate our facilities while taking virus countermeasures similar to regular restaurants.”

Bars and restaurants lining Yuigahama have introduced biodegradable forks and spoons – a first in Japan, it seems – and slopes have been built to improve wheelchair access.

“We are taking a step-by-step approach that is barrier-free, safe and environmentally friendly,” Motohide Masuda, the head of the Yuigahama Beach Business Association, told Mainichi. “We hope people will enjoy a modern Yuigahama.”