UC Berkeley researchers let us know that the smartphone app that can spot earthquakes is finally here. Scientists have been working on the app for several years, and they now hope that it could also help them run an extensive science experiment.
The MyShake app will come free of charge, but it will only be available for Goolge Android handsets. If the piece of software is popular enough, it will be later rolled out for iPhones, as well.
Developers explained that MyShake can track earthquakes in real-time and tell magnitude. Users can warn their peers located farther from the epicenter against the incoming quake. The Berkeley team hopes to turn as many mobile phones as they can in data collection centers, and provide seismologists with accurate data on each earthquakes’ magnitude.
Berkeley said that the app can be tested by anyone around the world as long as they have an Android-powered smartphone. As soon as the app is downloaded it would start to beam data on earthquakes as they happen.
Scientists said that the data collected from so many smartphones would also help them develop an app that can warn users that a quake is about to happen seconds or even minutes earlier.
Richard Allen head of the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory noted that the experiment will rely on ‘citizen scientists’ to unfurl. The app was also designed to educate people and motivate them to be prepared for future earthquakes.
The app’s developers explained that the tiny program accesses a set of sensors found in many smartphones called accelerometers. The sensors ‘sense’ the phone’s position related to the ground allowing users to turn their gadgets into steering wheels in racing video games.
But the app won’t consider any phone shaking an earthquake. Its algorithms are tuned to match only specific vibration to real quakes. This is why the phone won’t spot an earthquake that has a lower magnitude than 5.
Plus the crowdsourced network knows that it must be an earthquake because hundreds of phones will flood it with the exact type of data.
Allen is currently working with scientists at U.S. Geological Survey on a $38 million project called ShakeAlert, designed to create a system that can detect an earthquake on the West Coast before it is news. The system has already produced an early warning on a magnitude 6 quake eight seconds before it reached surface.
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