Smartphones getting even smarter – Used to detect earthquake tremors



Smartphone have come into some criticism in the past regarding information gathered from users; however the latest idea for using our phones to gather details could be used to save lives. The latest thinking from the team at the Berkeley Seismic Laboratory believes the accelerometers in smartphones can be used to monitor earthquakes and tremors.


The accelerometer, used for rotating the screen, could be used in conjunction with an app to record activity during an earthquake and this data can then be fed back to a server over the mobile network. With smartphones seeing such a huge jump in sales and popularity, researchers would be able to get information and data from virtually anywhere an event occurs.

The detailed information on what was felt where could be used to develop early warning systems which in turn could save countless lives where seconds matter in such situations. The data could also be used in risk planning, as certain areas could be identified as more at risk than others thanks to the data fed back from the phones.


Development of the app has been discussed to send out warning messages to smartphone users giving advice on what to do and could give those vital few seconds to get in a safer place.


At first it was thought that perhaps it couldn’t be done, but tests done on the lab’s “shake table” showed the accelerometers would be able to collect the data.


One of the issues faced by researchers was the “human noise” that the accelerometers picked up such as the phone user walking or running but they soon overcame that with an algorithm that can ignore this information.


As it stands the project is in its infancy with the team hoping to ramp up progress by recruiting more people to conduct tests in the Bay area of San Francisco next year. Qinkai Kong, a researcher at the University of California, Berkeley said “Right now, we can only detect earthquakes above about Magnitude 5.0, but with better accelerometers in future smartphones we would hope to detect smaller ones as well.”









Comments are closed.