Digital | ON: TECH

Little solutions for big disasters

by Chiho Komoriya

Recent typhoons and heavy rains have left local governments in some parts of Japan having to deal with reconstruction, and residents thinking more about being better prepared in the future. This month On: Tech looks at a few gadgets that could be useful during emergencies.

Small but powerful

When power grids go down, a good alternative energy source can make all the difference to survival. The PowerArQ is a powerful portable power supply that is smaller than cooler box and weighs just 6 kilograms. Its lithium-ion battery has a capacity of 174,000 milliampere-hour / 626 watt-hour, enough to heat an electric blanket overnight, and it can be recharged over 300 times.

One caveat, though: It does take eight to 10 hours to charge, so this is something to plug in in advance when you hear of an incoming potential disaster, such as a major typhoon. There is, however, an optional solar panel and, importantly, its energy can be used while it is recharging. For example, it can be used to power gadgets while also charging itself via solar panel.

Complete with USB and cigar sockets as well as common outlets, the PowerArQ is compatible with most gadgets. Its easy-to-carry shape (it looks a little like a radio) and availability in various colors also helped it win a 2019 Good Design Award.

At ¥66,000, the PowerArQ is not cheap, but it is a handy battery to have around for other uses, such as camping trips in the wilderness.

bit.ly/powerarq (Japanese only)

Keeping the light on

Sanwa’s USB-LED01 looks like an ordinary wall-outlet motion-sensor light, but it has an extra feature that makes it useful during a power outage: It contains its own battery, so if it’s on during a blackout, it won’t go out.

The motion sensor means that it doesn’t need a switch, making it convenient for everyday use, and it can also be removed from its charging holder to be used as a flashlight during emergencies. Not only this, but during a power failure, the light will automatically turn on, so there’s no need to stumble around in the dark for a flashlight or candle.

The USB-LED01 takes over 32 hours to fully charge, but since it’s always plugged into the mains, it’s constantly recharging, so it should be ready to go at all times. On a full charge, it can run continuously for around three hours. Priced at ¥4,620 and available at most electronic stores, it’s also reasonably priced for an all-in-one lamp and flashlight.

bit.ly/usb-led1 (Japanese only)

Little essentials

Oral care may not be something that comes to mind mid-disaster, but it can become an issue if water becomes scarce — and tooth decay can exacerbate all kinds of health problems. The Soladey, which doesn’t require toothpaste and heavy rinsing, is a handy toothbrush to have if you find yourself having to survive on bottled water. As an ionic toothbrush, it generates negative electrons, which break down plaque, making it easier to brush away.

There are other ionic toothbrushes, but unlike those that require a small titanium battery, the Soladey is solar powered. A small solar panel on the brush’s handle delivers solar energy to a titanium rod in the brush’s shank, which creates a chemical reaction with water in the bristles. It doesn’t need much water and even works with saliva. The heads are also exchangeable, so one family could all use the same toothbrush handle, reducing waste.

Soladey has recently released a toothbrush “survival set,” ideal for disaster preparedness kits. It consists of one toothbrush handle and four replacement heads for other members of the family and is priced at ¥3,850.

bit.ly/soladeykit (Japanese only)