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Google's Crowdsourced Earthquake Alert Program Is Rolling Out In New Zealand & Greece, For Starters

Google is finally starting to roll out its crowdsourced earthquake alerts feature outside of US, starting with New Zealand and Greece before moving on to other international borders.

The feature was introduced last year across Android devices, and started off in California. Google worked in conjunction with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). By relying on technology developed by ShakeAlert, an early warning signal could easily be emitted, received by Android mobile phones, and transmitted as a warning message to users. What's more interesting is how the technology is implemented in areas without proper seismographs. By relying on idle accelerometers built into Android devices, an earthquake warning could be sent out by relying on data received from millions of users that are all in the same area. Much like how Google Maps gives traffic updates by noting down phone locations, these phones could act as simpler seismographs.

While an Android device's results are certainly not as sensitive as actual geological mapping, there's much to be said about the power of so much data. The warning messages provide to users estimates of both magnitude as well as distance from the earthquake site, while also displaying a series of safety precautions that must be taken in such scenarios. Given the multitude of Android devices out in the world, enough data can easily be harvested from the sheer number of users to provide accurate results.

Google's timeline with these technological features has been spotty, but it can be clearly established that work first started in California. While touching base with the 700 seismographs present in the state, somewhere along the line, the company then decided to branch out. By the time the ShakeAlert system was announced to California residents, Google has started work on its crowdsourcing feature. Working with the Android accelerometers, its goals of moving to more underdeveloped countries were rather apparent.

While the ShakeAlert based system is being rolled out in other US-based regions, moving on to Oregon and Washington as well, the crowdsourcing project has a different trajectory ahead of itself. Google's first picks were announced to be New Zealand and Greece, countries that are both developed enough to feature a wide assay of mobile devices but also lack access to more widespread seismographic recordings. With this plan in mind, the tech giant also aims to cover further ground exclusively on countries that don't have proper geological mapping devices, considering how much such technology could help them.


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