MyShake App – Personal Earthquake Warning System

MyShake App

Scientists have been trying to predict earthquakes for years. There are some Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) systems in place around the world that detects earthquakes and provides seconds to minutes of warning. In most cases that’s just not enough time to get the news out and have everyone prepared.

Nowadays almost everyone has a smart phone. A team at Berkley University created an app called MyShake which is an app that uses the accelerometers in smartphones to collect data that may help detect earthquakes. The goal is to have these apps on everyone’s phones to collect more data in the area so their system can analyze and return warnings when an earthquake is about to hit.

“Our goal is to build a worldwide seismic network and use the data to reduce the effects of earthquakes on us as individuals, and our society as a whole.” – MyShake.Berkley.Edu

How it Works

My Shake AppThe app runs in the background just like a fitness tracker app and uses the phone’s accelerometer (which detects vibration, tilt and movement) to pick up the signature shaking of an earthquake and sends the data to their system for analysis. A special algorithm in their system gathers data from multiple phones in the same area to determine whether an earthquake is about to happen and send you an alert. Now you might be thinking, “What if I jump up and down?” or “What if I drop my phone?”. Well, they’ve built a system that can differentiate the movements of everyday actions and those that fit the profile of an earthquake to prevent false data.

Other than recent earthquakes, the app also has a “Safety” section where yo can learn about earthquake preparedness as well as a “Past” section that displays the past earthquakes.

Does it Work?

Tests using historical data indicated that MyShake was able to help identify quakes with 93 percent accuracy when using data collected from a 6-mile radius around the epicenter (Source: BBC). With more users, more data, and constant improvement, this can only get better.

Knowledge is Power

Earthquake Early Warning System

You’ve all heard the term “Knowledge is power”. It definitely is in this case. The more people use this app, the more data is sent to their system which will help increase the accuracy of detection.  Earthquake Early Warning (EEW) systems, which help detect earthquakes, are spread out and even non-existent in some countries. By using this app you are essentially turning your phone into an EEW.

You can imagine just how powerful this can be by creating a vast global network and providing more and more data to the MyShake system. That would be more data than seismologists ever imagined they could gather and with this data they can learn even more about earthquakes. It’s truly revolutionary!

Some History

Richard Allen, director of UC Berkley’s Seismological Laboratory and chair of the earth and planetary science department, started working on this in 2012 after learning about improvements in smartphone accelerometers. He wanted a way to allow people to have more time to take cover before an earthquake strikes. With conventional ways of earthquake detection it can take crucial minutes before you are alerted via the news, social media, or radio. Even seconds are enough for you to take cover under a sturdy table and protect yourself so the more notice you have the better.

Where can I get it?

It’s free and currently they only have an app for Android (which has over 100,000 downloads worldwide) but are hoping to get an iPhone version in the future. You can read more about the app by visiting their FAQ section.

Google Play DownloadFinal Thoughts

In my opinion this is great! I know I’m not always “connected” and using the internet or watching the news so even if there was an earthquake warning, chances are I wouldn’t even know about it until it’s too late! With this app I can get an alert in real time which can possibly save me and those around me. But to make this effective I think you need to have a fair number of people in your area with the app. If only a handful of people have the app then there isn’t much data being passed and there isn’t much coverage in terms of area as well. Well, you gotta start somewhere right? I recommend that everyone who’s in an earthquake risk area download the app and be part of the revolution.

13 Comments

  1. stefan

    Hi there! I think this as an amazing App and I would definitely use it if I was living in a sensitive region. It can indeed save people’s lives because you get the alert and run for a safer place just in time.

    Do you think the system can deliver false alarms as the case with many security alarms in buildings etc.?

    Thanks for sharing! Great article
    Best
    Stefan

    Reply
    1. Andy

      Hi Stefan, I believe their system has an algorithm that calculates whether it’s an actual earthquake based on a variety of factors such as how the ground moves (as opposed to human movement) and how many devices report the same readings. If one device in an area reports something while 50 others in the same area do not then I don’t think the alarm would trigger. Of course technology is not perfect so there can always be room for errors. Hopefully as they get more users and more data they can tweak their app and system to improve it’s accuracy. Thanks for your comment!

      Reply
  2. Jim

    Hello Andy,
    Well written, I like the flow. Amazing, what will they think of next! Every moment counts for sure. I’d download but earthquakes are unheard of here. I wish you great success, it is a great idea!
    Cheers!
    Jim

    Reply
    1. Andy

      Yeah, technology is amazing isn’t it? Hopefully this will save lives in the event of an earthquake.

      Reply
  3. Roger

    Andy,

    What a terrific concept!

    I lived in San Francisco during the 1989 earthquake. I actually did some standup comedy shows not far from the epicenter days after the quake. I’d start with, “Santa Cruz, epicenter, comedy. Which of these doesn’t belong?”

    That earthquake, as well as all the others I experienced while living in California, was certainly not expected.

    This app will really make a huge difference, and it puts the power of the app in the people who need it most!

    Sounds awesome. I’ll look forward to the iPhone version, even though I now live in New Hampshire, where earthquakes are rare. Though we did have a 2.9 magnitude earthquake in Contoocook, NH, 5 days ago!

    Thanks for brining this potentially life saving app to our attention.

    Reply
    1. Andy

      California is definitely a hot spot for earthquakes as is Vancouver, where I live which motivated me to build this site. Hopefully I spread awareness and help people in the process.

      Reply
  4. Samuel

    Hey Andy,

    This is a app is really a lifesaver! Thanks for sharing. It’s amazing they made it free so that everyone can use.

    Unfortunately, I don’t use a android phone. I really hope that one day it would be available for apple. Luckily, I live in a save country that never had earthquakes before.

    Samuel

    Reply
  5. Andy

    Yeah there is huge potential for this app. I really hope people in at risk areas use it. I’m sure the demand for an iPhone version is out there so hopefully they’ll get one out soon.

    Reply
  6. Irvan

    Andy,

    I am always looking for cool apps to download on my smart phone, and this one could actually be useful when things go sideways!

    It’s amazing how far technology has come in the last decade! I’ll download this app and let you know what I think. Thanks for this information Andy!

    Reply
  7. Jane

    This is an interesting article and I thank you for posting it. I am into all kinds of apps for my phone but this is one that I have never heard of. This is wonderful! The things that we can do in today’s world with all of this technology is just amazing!
    Do you live where there are alot of earthquakes?

    Reply
    1. Andy

      Thanks Jane! Yeah I was so amazed when I read about this app I had to post it to let everyone know. Yes, I live in Vancouver, Canada where there’s always talk about “The Big One” so it’s a pretty hot topic here on the west coast. That’s what inspired me to create this website to help spread earthquake preparedness.

      Reply
  8. Wayne

    Hey, Andy. Nice website you’ve got here. Just read you review and I have downloaded this app. Can’t be too ready considering they say we are overdue for a good one. Have experienced a couple of small ones here in the lower mainland, so well aware of the possibilities. Thanks again and keep up the good work.

    Reply
    1. Andy

      Thanks Wayne! I live in the Lower Mainland as well so I guess we’re in the same boat. Better to be prepared than sorry.

      Reply

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