Google is turning the Android platform into a global earthquake detection network that is powered via smartphones. The system is in its nascent stages and was first rolled out today, with The Verge reporting on it.
Android users can opt in for the program which will basically utilize the accelerometer found in your smartphone, to become one data point for an algorithm that can detect earthquakes. What Google hopes is that, when the network gets large enough, people would automatically receive warning messages regarding a possible earthquake impacting their region.
The system is made possible with a large number of Android smartphones scattered across the globe along with a smart algorithm that intelligently utilizes the data it receives. This entire network showcases the fact that smartphones have a lot more passive practical uses to offer. This was also highlighted in previously tested car crash detection and emergency location services systems.
At the moment, Google is rolling this out in small stages. It will be teaming up with the United States Geological Survey and the California Office of Emergency Services within the state. These alerts are currently being generated by the already existing ShakeAlert system that utilizes data generated from conventional seismometers. According to Marc Stogaitis, lead Google Android software engineer, the use of Android aims to fill in the areas where seismometers cannot cover due to expensive costs to set up and maintain.
“We figured out [Android phones are] sensitive enough to detect earthquake waves. As an earthquake wave goes through, they’re able to detect them and usually see both key types of waves, the P wave and the S wave,” said Stogaitis. In other words, your Android device can act as a “mini seismometer” using the accelerometer. The feature is only active when the device is plugged in to help save battery and even gives out helpful tips and actions to be performed under emergency.
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