Do You Have An Earthquake Detector? There Is An App For That [Video]

“MyShake” is a new, free Android smartphone app created my seismologists that can turn your smartphone into an earthquake detector. The app developers are counting on numerous people across the globe to download the app and use a crowdsourcing method to accumulate data on earthquakes in areas where detection is not as good as other places.

For the most part, seismologists have the Earth wired fairly well with equipment to study and analyze earthquakes. Despite that, some regions could use improvement. Seismologists are banking on “citizen scientists” to be able to fill in the blind spots where detection of tremors is lacking. Richard Allen, leader of the MyShake project and director of the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory in California, commented on the MyShake project.

“As smartphones became more popular and it became easier to write software that would run on smartphones, we realized that we had the potential to use the accelerometer that runs in every smartphone to record earthquakes.”

How Does MyShake Turn Your Phone Into An Earthquake Detector?

The main smartphone feature utilized by MyShake is the accelerometer. Accelerometers are designed to measure various forces that relate to speed. The forces measured are vibration, tilt, and movement. In smartphones, accelerometer’s can determine changes in the direction the phone is facing. Accelerometers in smartphones are already being utilized for apps that deal with personal fitness. Personal fitness apps on smartphones are sensitive enough to accurately be able to function as a pedometer. Walkers tend to not slam their foot down with each step. Pedometer apps and the accelerometers need to be so sensitive that they pick up the tiniest vibration generated by a step. Since we are dealing with earthquakes, vibrations are the key movements that MyShake will be picking up.

“It’s about looking at the amplitude and the frequency content of the earthquake, and it’s quite different from the amplitude and frequency content of most everyday shakes. It’s very low-frequency energy and the amplitude is not as big as the amplitude for most everyday activities.”

The app creators have not forgotten about iPhone users. Developers state that future versions of the app will become available for people who use iPhones. One of the main goals for the app is to make it available to as many people as possible. The more people who have it installed on their phones will mean more opportunities for data acquisition. Smartphones are owned by approximately 2.6 billion people worldwide. It is estimated that the number of smartphone users will increase dramatically to 6 billion people by 2020. If only half of the smartphone owners install the MyQuake app then there will be no place on Earth that would not be able to have earthquakes studied in the in-depth manner that seismologists are hoping for.

The ultimate goal will be to gather enough data, and to understand earthquakes to the point that the app could be turned into an early detection device for a future earthquake. Earthquake prediction has become the holy grail of predicting natural disasters. There are no current methods that have been proven to detect earthquakes on a regular basis. The majority of injuries and deaths that happen during earthquakes are due to people simply not being able to get to safety before the quake hits. Experts believe that it could take as little as a 30-second warning before an earthquake strikes for people to get to a place where their chance of survival would increase.

Will you put the MyShake app on your smartphone?

[Image Via AP Photo/Annie Ho]