Google wants Android smartphones to be able to function as mini-seismographs and warn of possible earthquakes.
Earth is alive, and always in constant flux. And one way that Gea has of showing us that it is she and not humans who are in charge, are earthquakes. Earthquakes occur daily around the world, with hundreds of millions of people living in earthquake-prone regions. Early warning can help people prepare for earthquakes, but the public infrastructure to detect and alert everyone to an earthquake is expensive to build and deploy.
The Google Seismograph Network
Taking advantage of current technology, at Google “ we saw the opportunity to use Android to provide people with timely and useful information about earthquakes when they search for them” , as well as being able to alert a population “ a few seconds [before it happens] so that they and their loved ones get to safety if necessary. ”
The first step in his ambitious plan was to collaborate with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) to “send earthquake alerts, powered by ShakeAlert, directly to devices Android in California ”.
Developed by the nation’s leading seismologists, the ShakeAlert system uses signals from more than 700 seismometers installed statewide by the USGS, Cal OES, the University of California Berkeley, and the California Institute of Technology. And is that a few seconds of warning can make a difference to give you time to seek shelter before the earthquake happens.
An Android mobile turned into a seismograph
But each area is different, and the installation of a terrestrial network of seismometers as California has done may not be feasible in all affected areas of the world. So Google set about the next phase of their plan, using ” the reach of the Android platform to help detect earthquakes.”
And although it sounds a bit strange, as of today, your Android mobile can be part of the Android earthquake alert system, anywhere in the world. This means that your smartphone can be a mini-seismometer, joining millions of other Android phones to “form the largest earthquake detection network in the world.”
But how exactly does this technology work? All smartphones come with small accelerometers that can detect signals that indicate that an earthquake could be occurring. If the phone detects something that it thinks may be an earthquake, then it “sends a signal to our earthquake detection server, along with an approximate location of where the earthquake occurred .”
The Google server then combines the information from all those mobiles to find out if an earthquake is happening. But for your mobile to become a seismograph, first you will have to download the official application in which Google works and give it various permissions.
Google has worked with seismology and disaster experts such as Dr. Richard Allen, Dr. Qingkai Kong, and Dr. Lucy Jones, to develop this approach to earthquake detection around the world. For starters, ” we will use this technology to share a quick and accurate view of the impacted area in Google search.” And when you search for “earthquake” or “earthquake near me,” you’ll find results relevant to your area, along with helpful resources on what to do after an earthquake.
The program begins with earthquake alerts in California, as there is already a large system based on seismographs. The intention of Google is that during the next 2021 the earthquake alerts will be expanded in “more states and countries” using this new system with the device that you always carry with you.