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Smartphones Could Be Used to Detect Earthquakes

According to a study published yesterday in the journal Science Advances, smartphones and similar personal electronic instruments could actually be utilized to detect earthquakes and even alert people in poorer countries.


She’s happy because she can save lives with her smartphone./Image: WhisperedInspirations

An early warning system could be created by adapting the device’s GPS (global positioning system) receivers to detect any ground movement created by a sizeable earthquake. The study notes that by utilizing crowd-sourced observations from different users’ devices, earthquakes could easily be both detected and analyzed. Earthquake warnings could also be sent back to users.

Although an earthquake detector on a smartphone would not be quite as accurate as actual scientific-grade equipment, this smartphone method could work well in countries that simply cannot afford new unable to afford expensive, expansive earthquake early warning systems. The researchers reported that only a few of the world’s earthquake-prone regions actually have earthquake early warning systems.

Project leader and USGS geophysicist Benjamin Brooks said: “Most of the world does not receive earthquake warnings mainly due to the cost of building the necessary scientific monitoring networks.”

Study lead author Sarah Minson, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey, stated: “Crowd-sourced alerting means that the community will benefit by data generated from the community.”

The investigative team employed information from an earthquake that occurred in Japan in 2011 in order to create an earthquake simulation to test the actual feasibility of a crowd-sourced early warning system. Their research revealed that such a system would indeed be effective even if but a small percentage of individuals in an affected area provided information from their smartphones.

The researchers proved that a crowd-sourced system would be viable with data collected from less than 5,000 people in any large city. They did add, however, that the system would only be effective for earthquakes of “magnitude 7 or larger”.

Smart Phones Could Be Used to Detect Earthquakes

About Will Phoenix

W. Scott Phoenix, B.A., B.S. was born in Hawaii, raised in Pennsylvania and resides in California. He has been a published writer since 1978. His work has appeared (under various names) in numerous places in print and online including Examiner.com. He is a single parent of three children and has also worked as an actor, singer and teacher. He has been employed by such publications as the Daily Collegian and the Los Angeles Times.