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Your smartphone can now sense earthquakes before they happen



Mobile phones have grown to become one of man’s most important companions and it is even getting better with your phone, yes, the one you’re probably reading this article on because it can now detect earthquakes just by installing an application.

A group of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley announced today the release of a new app called MyShake which is available as a free download for Android smartphones in the Google Play store.

The app uses the accelerometer in your phone (the device that lets your phone adjust the screen when you turn it sideways) and GPS to measure how much shaking is happening in a given location.

Read also: Mobile devices could now be charged by your footsteps

The hope is that eventually, if enough people download it, the app will allow your phone to function as both a personal seismometer and an early warning system.
Revealing more about how the app works, one of the researchers said; “When the app detects shaking that resembles an earthquake, the information is sent to a server. If enough phones detect shaking, that data is pooled together in a computer and analysed.

“If it’s a large earthquake, in the future alerts can be generated from the phones of people closest to the earthquake’s epicenter, and sent out ahead of the shaking, giving people further away (also equipped with the app) the chance to drop, cover, and hold on.

But in order for the app to be effective as an early warning system, a decent number of people have to download it. The researchers estimate that in order to accurately detect the origin and start time of large earthquakes in a location, there need to be at least 300 phones equipped with the app in a roughly 4,761 square mile area. The more MyShake-equipped phones in an area, the faster the team can get accurate information.

“Currently, we have a network of 400 seismic stations in California, one of the densest in the world,” project leader Richard Allen said in a statement. “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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