Android phones to become the world's biggest natural disaster detection grid

Yolanda Curtis
August 13, 2020

In California, Google is also partnering with the United States Geological Survey and California Governor's Office of Emergency Services to provide quake alerts. When Google is confident that the Android Earthquake Alerts System is accurate enough, it will actively send out warnings and alerts to users directly.

Google's Android phones have started detecting earthquakes around the world to provide data that could eventually give billions of users precious seconds of warning of a tremor nearby, with an alerting feature first rolling out in California.

The next part of the warning system will show localized results in Google searches for earthquakes, which will ask users if they felt shaking. ShakeAlert made use of signals from over 700 seismometres installed across the state by the Cal OES, the USGS, the California Institute of Technology and the University of California Berkeley. This would mean that all the Android smartphones would act as mini-seismometres, making the largest quake detection system in the world. Those further away would get a smaller notification designed not to stir them from their sleep, while people too close to be warned will get information about post-quake safety, such as checking gas valves.

The system will not work in regions including China where Google's Play Services software is blocked. Relying on ShakeAlert technology, it is involving 700 seismometers across the city to offer early quake detection.

Google hasn't announced yet when it plans to roll out the stable version of the Phone app.

But what if the required infrastructure isn't going to pop-up in areas near you in the near future? Well, Google says it can use your Android phone to detect earthquakes.

Android phones can now separate earthquakes from vibrations caused by thunder or the device dropping only when the device is charging, stationary and has user permission to share data with Google. Every smartphone has accelerometers that can detect movement, irrespective of intensity of direction.

This is where the second and third stages of the Android Earthquake Alerts System come into play. They have to be constantly maintained, you need a lot of them in an area to really have a good natural disaster early warning system'.

"We figured out [Android phones are] sensitive enough to detect quake waves". You will need to search for "earthquake" or "earthquake near me", to see the same. One of these features is Call Screen.

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