Smartphones Can Now Detect Earthquakes

Posted: Feb 13 2016, 3:09am CST | by , in News | Latest Science News

Smartphones Can Now Detect Earthquakes
  • An App designed to detect Earthquakes via your Smart Phone

An app is out now which was designed to detect earthquakes via your smart phone.

Seismometers are a difficult thing to install and not everyone can afford one. But your smart phone may serve as one provided it has an app running in it that caters to this need.

If a number of smart phones have an earthquake app in them, then these might act as a network of sorts that will give instant results.

The experts have been tinkering with such tools of the trade since times immemorial. But they had a tough time connecting so many people who in turn had to switch on their computers.

An article, published in the Feb. 12 issue of the journal Science Advances, describes an Android app that does the job neatly and quickly. The effects of an earthquake on a smart phone was calculated in advance.

“MyShake cannot replace traditional seismic networks like those run by the U.S. Geological Survey, UC Berkeley, the University of Washington and Caltech, but we think MyShake can make earthquake early warning faster and more accurate in areas that have a traditional seismic network, and can provide life-saving early warning in countries that have no seismic network,” said Richard Allen, the leader of the app project, director of the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory and a professor and chair of the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

An algorithm was developed that picked up signals of small and big earthquakes and minimized the risks of a false alarm. This app which is installed in various smart phones tends to send its signals to a central network.

The moment the app signals reach 60% in a local area network, the signs are all there that an earthquake is at work.

This app could be integrated into early warning systems that give information regarding earthquakes to people the moment they occur so that could take any precautions on the spot.

Also transportation sources could be halted when an earthquake occurs. The app could literally turn the detection of an earthquake into information that could be used on a worldwide level.

The app is titled MyShake and it is available from Google Play Store. It operates from behind the scenes in a mobile’s internal software. The accelerometer in the mobile smart phone can detect any tremors whether it is day or night.

“In my opinion, this is cutting-edge research that will transform seismology,” said UC Berkeley graduate student Qingkai Kong, who developed the algorithm at the heart of the app.

“The stations we have for traditional seismology are not that dense, especially in some regions around the world, but using smart phones with low-cost sensors will give us a really good, dense network in the future.”

Via GPS signals, the smart phone relays the message to a fixed center where it is interpreted and processed. Once the message gets relayed, the momentum builds up and eventually many people are warned beforehand of the earthquake’s impending tremors.

From the epicenter to the periphery, as the earthquake works it way outwards, the people that have not yet received any tremors are warned beforehand regarding the incoming tremors.

And so they can act beforehand to protect themselves from any loss of limb or life. And while this systematic operation cannot replace a traditional seismometer, it is the best alternative we have had so far.

“Currently, we have a network of 400 seismic stations in California, one of the densest in the world,” Allen said. “Even if we get only a small fraction of the state’s 16 million mobile phones participating in our program, that would be a many-orders-of-magnitude increase in the amount of data we can gather.”

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
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