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UC Berkeley App Makes Smartphones Detect Earthquakes

Update Date: Feb 15, 2016 10:21 AM EST

Early warning earthquake systems are prized pursuits in scientific research that continue to prove elusive. Smartphones and crowdsourcing could be the much needed response to killer quakes, researchers at UC Berkley believe.

According to Engadget, researchers have developed an app called MyShake that uses a smartphone's accelerometer to issue earthquake warnings. The software helps the phone to detect vibrations from quakes with magnitude 5 and greater. An alert is sent to researchers and subsequently to users. The system is expected to function efficiently when at least 300 phones provide earthquake inputs.

"In the near future we hope to be able to use it to send a warning out to users of the MyShake app to give them a few seconds warning before the shaking starts," said Richard Allen, the director of the seismology lab at the university, while demonstrating the working of the app.

According to LA Times, Allen said that smartphones will not replace sophisticated and sensitive seismic sensors but can be instrumental in regions like Nepal, which does not have an extensive network of traditional seismic sensors. The app runs in the background and is minimal in its resource consumption.

UC Berkeley is also part of larger efforts involving US Geological Survey to develop early warning earthquake systems. A future early warning system could see integration of traditional ground stations and smartphones that could prove extremely beneficial for vulnerable areas like California.

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