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Home BUSINESSNew app to turn smartphones into seismic network
Sun, 14 Feb, 2016 12:00:43 AM
FTimes- Xinhua Report, Feb 14
Researchers at University of California, Berkeley, released Friday an application, or app, on the Android platform in an effort to turn smartphones into a seismic detection network.
The app, called MyShake, runs in the background, collects information of local shaking from a phone's onboard accelerometers, analyzes it and, if it fits the vibrational profile of a quake, relays it together with the phone's GPS coordinates to the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory.
Specifically, if at least four phones detect shaking and this represents more than 60 percent of all phones within a 10-kilometer radius of the epicenter, cloud-based software program will confirm an earthquake.
Richard Allen, the leader of the app project and director of the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory, said "MyShake can make earthquake early warning faster and more accurate in areas that have a traditional seismic network, and can provide life-saving early warning in countries that have no seismic network"
UC Berkeley seismologists plan to use the data collected by the app to warn people near ground zero that shaking is rumbling their way.
However, the professor and chair of UC Berkeley's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences acknowledged "MyShake cannot replace traditional seismic networks like those run by the U.S. Geological Survey, UC Berkeley, the University of Washington and Caltech."
The success of the project hinges on that enough people are using the app, thus sending in data for analysis.
Allen's long-term goal is to make earthquake detection so valuable that it becomes embedded in the mobile phone operating system, so that everyone becomes part of the network.
The researchers believe that a crowdsourced seismic network may be the only option today for many earthquake-prone developing countries, such as Nepal or Peru, that have a sparse or no ground-based seismic network or early warning system, but do have millions of smartphone users.
UC Berkeley graduate student Qingkai Kong, who developed the algorithm at the heart of the app, explained that "the stations we have for traditional seismology are not that dense, especially in some regions around the world, but using smart phones with low-cost sensors will give us a really good, dense network in the future."
"We need at least 300 smartphones within a 110-kilometer-by-110-kilometer area in order to have a reasonable estimate of the location, magnitude and origin time of an earthquake," Kong said. "The denser the network, the earlier you can detect the earthquake."
He saw MyShake project as "cutting-edge research that will transform seismology."
In simulated tests based on real earthquakes, MyShake was able to provide timely early warning.
While an iPhone version of the app is planned, a paper about the project is published in the Feb. 12 issue of the journal Science Advances.
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