Could Your Smartphone Help Detect Earthquakes?

smartphoneSmartphones really can do impressive things. While most people probably won’t use all of the apps available for these miniature computers, developers continue to find ways to push these little devices to the limit. Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, for example, have developed a new Android app which can actually detect earthquakes. More importantly, the team says that the more people who have and use the app, the more it will become like a mass data collection project.

According to UC-Berkeley Seismological Laboratory director Richard Allen, “This is a citizen science project. This is an app that provides information, education, motivation – to the people who’ve downloaded it – to get ready for earthquakes. Those same people are contributing to our further understanding of earthquakes, because they’re collecting data that will help us better understand the earthquake process.”

The new app is called MyShake and it works in the background, on your smartphone. Download the app and simply keep it on so the device’s sensors can detect activity and then send data to the central monitoring system.

It might not seem like a big deal to those in the United States because most there are not too many major fault lines but also because there are many detection methods and safeguards in place to help predict and prepare for the natural disasters. But this is not the case in other parts of the world, parts of the world that are not only ill-equipped for detection but also in terms of preparation and evacuation.

For example, Allen continues, “Nepal has almost no seismic stations. But they have 6 million smartphones. There are 600,000 smartphones in Kathmandu alone. So if we can get MyShake working, then we could potentially be providing early warning in Kathmandu.”

Thus, Allen goes on to say: “The question is, ‘Are we ready?’” in regards to seismic warning while at an earthquake summit at the White House, a few weeks ago. “I don’t think that we are quite ready yet, but the fact that we are meeting here today means there is an opportunity to push this project forward and move to a full-blown earthquake early warning system in the next few years

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