App inventors want to save lives with global network of smartphone quake detectors.
A new Android app, released by inventors from the University of California-Berkeley, could become a worldwide early warning system for earthquake detection, according to a Reuters article.
Called MyShake, the app can record quake-type rumblings, and compare data from a number of users with the app and could provide much-needed early warnings of an impending disaster. The hope is the app can provide warnings to areas of the world where smartphone use is widespread, but lacking in seismological instruments.
Richard Allen, the leader of the app project and director of the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory, said he doesn’t expect the app to take the place of traditional seismic networks, but the team thinks it can provide life-saving early warnings to countries without such networks. He added they think the app may even be faster and possibly more accurate in areas that do have seismic networks in place.
Countries like Nepal, which is still reeling from two devastating earthquakes that hit the region last year and killed 9,000, injured over 22,000 and destroyed almost 900,000 homes, could benefit from such an early warning. Reportedly, there are over 3.4 billion smartphone users across the globe, so the creators of the app hope to tap into that resource to build the network.
Other earthquake-prone countries, such as Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Peru, have little or no seismic networks and could benefit from the app’s promise as well.
The app works on the same technology that senses the orientation of your phone, known as the accelerometer, to measure the vibrations or shaking during the beginning of a quake. And although there some limitations with regard to range – the app can only register a quake above a magnitude of five within about six miles – the inventors say 300 smartphones equipped with the app within about 60 square miles, could estimate the location and magnitude of a quake, as well as its origin.
Allen adds the creators want to make this a “killer app” that can use the phones accelerometer to deliver an earthquake early warning, and lead to saving lives.