Google is turning Android into an earthquake warning system
Google wants to help the world prepare (somewhat) for earthquakes - small as well as major, potentially deadly, ones. The internet giant has announced an effort under which it will turn Android phones into sophisticated detection systems that can send warning alerts and safety tips about a quake before it occurs. Here is all you need to know about it.
Working of the earthquake warning system
In a blog post shared a few hours ago, Google detailed its plan to use Android to provide people with timely, helpful information related to an earthquake. It said the data related to the calamity will be given in the form of search results as well as alerts, which will appear mere seconds in advance but will give enough time to be safe.
Two systems being used for quake warnings
To establish this phone-based warning system, Google is using two techniques. Under the first, the company is partnering with states, at least in the US, to use the data from their ground-based seismometers to detect quakes. It already claims to have collaborated with California to send warning alerts to people in the state through the USGS' ShakeAlert system, which is based on 700+ seismometers.
Second technique will turn Android into seismometers
As many regions don't have a well-established network of seismometers, Google will turn Android phones into mini seismometers. Essentially, it will use the accelerometer of devices to detect signals indicating a quake and send that data, along with a proximate location, to its earthquake detection server. This server then corroborates the data with that from other phones to determine if a quake is happening.
Accelerometer can detect weakest waves
"They are even sensitive enough to detect the P-wave, which is the first wave that comes out of an earthquake and is typically much less damaging than the S-wave which comes afterward," says Marc Stogaitis, Google's principal software engineer of Android.
Android-based system will be used for alerts next year
Currently, Google has enabled quake alerts only in California, using the ground-based network of seismometers available there. The Android-based detection system, created from the joining of millions of other Android phones out there, will be initially used to provide "a fast, accurate view of the impacted area" in Search and then moved towards sending alerts, possibly sometime next year.