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Monday, January 18, 2021

Android phones can now detect and warn of earthquakes

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Detecting earthquakes anywhere across the world requires a network of seismometers feeding data to an early warning system. However, very few places on Earth have this infrastructure and they don’t warn everyone of an impending disaster. Google, however, has figured out a way to alert a majority of people using the existing technologies and two clever ideas. The project involves making your Android smartphone a seismometer. Also Read – Google Pixel 5 shows up with detailed specs on AI Benchmark website

In a detailed blog post, Google mentions two distinct ways to warn people of earthquakes before they hit an area. Earthquake waves travel in unique ways and Google is using its nature to detect it early and alert users before it hits. One of the ways is by using an existing detection network while the other one simply makes your phone detect an earthquake. Also Read – Apple Watch users to get new feature-packed Google Maps soon

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Seismometer based system

For the first system, Google will rely on a network of seismometers to detect an earthquake. Within a few seconds, the system will send out earthquake alerts to all Android phones as a notification. The entire process will happen in seconds and it will prompt users to take cover or head to safety. The system is meant to ensure that people reach for safety before an earthquake hits them. Also Read – Google could launch its own foldable Pixel Fold in 2021

Google is currently testing the system in California in collaboration with United States Geological Survey (USGS) and California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES). Relying on ShakeAlert technology, it is involving 700 seismometers across the city to offer early earthquake detection. Google intends to roll out this technology to all the cities where the infrastructure is available.

Android phones as seismometers

But what if the required infrastructure isn’t going to pop-up in areas near you in the near future? Well, Google says it can use your Android phone to detect earthquakes. All Android smartphones have accelerometers built-in to detect their movements. Google can use that to figure out if there’s an earthquake coming and instantly alert the system. The system then cross-checks with other Android phones in the vicinity to confirm the earthquake and eventually notify.

When users do a Google Search for “earthquake” or “earthquake near me”, the feed will show relevant information in the results. If you are in the concerned areas, Google will confirm it form you with a question. If an earthquake is coming, it will show up things to help yourself in the vent of an earthquake.

“The biggest key thing is that the phones that are nearest to the earthquake can help users away from the earthquake know about it. One of the limitations of the system is that we can’t warn all users before an earthquake reaches them. The users closest to the epicentre of the earthquake just aren’t likely to get a warning in time because we’re not predicting earthquakes ahead of time,” says Google in its blog.

This Android Earthquake Alerts System will be available to all Android phones with a Google Mobile Services update in the future. This will ensure global coverage of an earthquake detection system without adding to the expenses. Sadly, the feature won’t be available to China as Google Mobile Services doesn’t work there.

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