Google recently announced plans to use accelerometers in Android smartphones to detect earthquakes. This includes enabling millions of people living in areas at risk to benefit from a reliable detection and alert system.

Mini seismometers

What if Android became the world’s largest earthquake detection system? Google said it is working on this kind of project in a blog post published on August 11, 2020. In its publication, the giant mentions the Android Earthquake Alerts System. This system would be used to analyze data from smartphone accelerometers, which are usually used to determine the orientation of the device.

However, accelerometers can also detect primary waves, that is to say the fastest and least violent waves. In other words, for Google, accelerometers are just mini seismometers! Thus, if more smartphones are picking up these primary waves, it may mean the likely arrival of secondary, slower and more powerful waves. This would give Google time to send a notification to Android users in the affected regions.

This prevention system embodies a kind of race between the speed at which a phone’s signals travel and the speed of the earthquake itself. Logically, the system should therefore be less efficient for users who are very close to the epicenter. Indeed, the latter will be more quickly affected by the earthquake.

Soon available everywhere

Google explains that hundreds of millions of people live in areas prone to earthquakes. However, these areas are not always equipped with reliable prevention systems. It should be remembered that these are very expensive installations. Also mentioning is the fact that Google is currently working with the United States Institute of Geological Studies (USGS) and California Emergency Services Bureau. We are talking about a pilot program to test the system in real conditions in a region at risk. Indeed, this state is located right on the famous San Andreas fault.

In the future, the device could therefore eventually be distributed around the world. According to Google, the new functionality will be implemented through Google Mobile Services and will affect Android 5.0 and above devices. In addition, no update will be necessary and the functionality can be deactivated if necessary in the settings.

Stephan Meed

A southern gentleman at heart, Stephan is a man you'll find mudding, off-roading, and fishing on a typical weekend. However, a nutritionist by profession, he is also passionate about fitness and health through natural means. He writes mostly health-related content for the Scientific Origin.