Google Is Creating a Worldwide Earthquake Detection System Powered By Android Smartphones

On Tuesday, Google rolled out several new Android features such as updates to Android Auto as well as the emergency location service of Android. However, the most significant announcement was the release of a new global earthquake detection system. The company is launching a new earthquake alerting tool for users in California. You may also note that this earthquake detection system will not work in regions such as China where Google Play is blocked.

With the new feature, the company is essentially turning the Android smartphones of users into seismometers to create the largest earthquake detection network globally. The tech giant has started to detect earthquakes across the globe to provide information that could ultimately provide millions of people precious seconds of warning of an earthquake near them.

In a blog post, Principal Software Engineer Android, Marc Stogaitis, stated that any Android smartphone can be part of the Android Earthquake Alerting network which means that their Android mobiles can become a mini-seismometer. The company’s research is based on accelerometer sensors that are used to measure direction as well as the force of motion. These accelerometers come with Android mobiles, and they are used to determine if a person is holding an Android smartphone in portrait mode or landscape.

The company is working with seismology experts, they state that turning Android mobiles into mini-seismographs marked a significant advancement. Over 2.5 billion smartphones and tablets run on the Android OS. The company is working with disaster and seismology experts including Qingkai Kong, Lucy Jones, and Richard Allen, director of the University of California Berkeley’s seismological lab, to develop this global earthquake detection system.

Allen said that the company is on a path to delivering earthquake alerts to users wherever there are mobiles. Stogaitis revealed that the company’s program emerged from a week-long session 4- ½ years ago to experiment whether accelerometers in Android smartphones could detect earthquakes or car crashes, etc.

Google states that mobile accelerometers can measure the P-waves, the first waves that arrive after earthquakes. When an Android smartphone will detect an earthquake, it will send that information to a central level which determines whether this was actually an earthquake or not.

The company is working with the USGS and Cal OES and using the ShakeAlert network to provide alerts. It is worth noting that ShakeAlert network users data from 700 seismometers from across California. Earthquake alerts will trigger for magnitude 4.5 or higher, and it is not necessary to download a separate application.

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