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App turns Android phones into a network that provides early warnings about earthquakes


How would you like to be part of a network of smartphone users that can help detect when an earthquake is about to take place? UC Berkley has released an app for Android devices called MyShake that uses the motion sensors on your phone to determine if the earth is about to move under your feet. The information provided by your phone is added to the data from others using the app. This way, enough information can be received to make an accurate forecast.

At the same time, researchers can use the data that you provide (along with the others who have installed the app), to further help them improve on their crowd-sourced early warning system. Your phone's accelerometer is the main sensor employed by the app, and algorithms have been devised to ignore false alarms.

A phone's accelerometer can now forecast a magnitude 5 earthquake 6.2 miles away from the epicenter. Stronger quakes register on an accelerometer an even longer distance away. If 60% of those with the app show an earthquake alert at the same time, the alarm is sent out that an earthquake is coming. And this early warning is important because knowing that a quake is coming even just 60 seconds ahead of time, is enough to take precautions that could save many lives. The app also shows you what to do in case you are caught in an earthquake.

And in case you were wondering, an iOS version of the app will eventually be available.

Download MyShake (Android)

source: UCBerkley via ArsTechnica

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