Taiwan is bracing for Typhoon Soulik, which is scheduled to hit the island country late Friday. The arrival of the storm–now classified as a super typhoon–coincides with Google’s launch of Public Alerts for Taiwan yesterday. Severe weather alerts for typhoons and floods, and evacuation instructions if necessary, will appear on the page as well as on Google Search, Google Maps and Google Now on smartphones.
Google.org engineering director Eric Chu says the launch of Google Public Alerts for Taiwan just days before the anticipated arrival of Typhoon Soulik was a coincidence, as the company’s goal had been to make it available in time for typhoon season from mid-summer to early fall. Google.org’s goal is to encourage governments to adopt international standards of Web data such as the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) for publishing and sharing alerts and the Keyhole Markup Language (KML) for geographic data.
After the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the Google.org Crisis Response Team begin to look at the process of gathering and sharing data about natural disasters from official sources. A key challenge is that government agencies is often store information in closed formats like PDF files or JPEG images, making it difficult for researchers to share and analyze data.
Taiwan is the second Asian country after Japan to get Public Alerts, Google’s open data platform for emergency alerts and disaster information, which launched in the U.S. in January 2012 and is also available in Canada.
In 2009, residents of southern Taiwan were caught off-guard by the unexpected severity of Typhoon Morakot, which resulted in more than 500 deaths. The government was heavily criticized for its slow response, especially in rural areas where entire villages were swept away by landslides.