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
The 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
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!
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.
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.