Scientists have been trying for years to prove that some animals can sense an earthquake even days before the event, but maybe in the near future we won’t have to decipher their instincts.
Thanks to a new app launched on Friday, smartphones will soon become quake detectors, even if only the makeshift kind. MyShake, currently available only on Android, was designed to track tremors and maybe save the lives of its users.
By linking its users to each other, the app hopes to create an all-in-one earthquake warning system. It can record quake-type rumblings and then connect a critical number of users to a certain location.
In the future, it could eventually offer its users a notification countdown to the start of earthquake. According to the creators at the University of California, Berkeley, the app could warn the population of upcoming shakes without making use of their own seismological instruments.
Evidently, MyShake comes nowhere near traditional seismic networks – the kind runby the U.S. Geological Survey – but there potential of saving lives is still there. Richard Allen, director of the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory and the leader of the app project said that MyShake could offer early and faster warning.
The app could be the most useful in location that experience traditional seismic events, but the creators are positive MyShake could also be life-saving in countries with no seismic network.
Pakistan, Peru, Nepal, Iran and Turkmenistan are some of the earthquake-prone countries in the developing world which have poor early warning systems.
MyShake is based on an algorithm developed by a team of Silicon Valley programmers, and uses the same technology that allows smartphones to sense the phone’s orientation. Known as an accelerometer, this technology was found to be also able to measure movement caused by quakes.
Even though smartphones are not enough sensitive – an earthquake needs to be above magnitude 5 and within 10 kilometers for the device to detect it – they have something else going on for them: ubiquity.
Researchers were able to estimate a quake’s magnitude, location and origin time with only 300 smartphones running MyShake within a 110-km square area. With more than 3.4 billion smartphone subscriptions worldwide, the app’s creators hope to build a revolutionary seismic network covering around the globe.
Currently, the complex early-warning systems we have are not enough; they can warn of coming quakes a few minutes before they begin, but death and destruction is inevitable still with such a small timeframe.
Image Source: The Malaysian Insider