Your Android phone can notify you of an earthquake seconds before it happens. Here’s how

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Image: Google

If you live in an area prone to earthquakes, you’re probably used to feeling the earth shake without warning. But in recent years, technology has allowed governments and independent companies to create earthquake warning systems.

These systems, such as Google’s Android Earthquake Alerts system, cannot predict an earthquake because this technology does not yet exist. But it can give people a seconds-long warning to take action to prepare.

On October 25, an earthquake with a magnitude of 5.1 occurred in the San Francisco Bay Area. Twitter users Thanks Google for the warning, she said she got one Notification of the upcoming earthquake just a few seconds before they could feel the ground shake.

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Google’s earthquake detection is available worldwide, but is more advanced in California, Oregon and Washington, where more seismometer systems can communicate with Google’s servers.

Google’s earthquake alert uses data from Android phones and the phones’ accelerometers, which are small sensors that, when used together, can detect an earthquake occurring right before it hits. The accelerometers in phones are how Android phones can notify people in areas without seismometer systems of an earthquake.

These sensors send signals to Google’s earthquake detection server, along with a rough calculation of the location of the earthquake, and then Android users are notified of the ground-shaking activity.

Technology is constantly evolving to keep us safe, such as Google’s earthquake detection system and Apple’s accident detection. iPhone users can also receive earthquake alerts – via iPhone settings in some places, or from a third-party app. This week’s Quake has drawn comparisons between Android and iPhone alerts.

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David Kleidermacher, member of the Google security team, Hints that Google subscribes to the “Power of Open”, and other companies do not. He said Apple didn’t notify an iPhone user in his office of an earthquake until after it happened.

Google says that seismometer systems are expensive to build and use, so the solution is to use Android phones as mini seismometers. But as Robert de Groot, a member of the ShakeAlert operations team, told Wired, for phones to work as earthquake detectors, people need to be close to the earthquake.

As Google refines the technology, they hope to notify people of an earthquake with more seconds between notification and an active earthquake. The technology is still new and underdeveloped, so it may be a while before people even have a minute to take cover.



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