In New Zealand and Greece, Android smartphones will warn of an earthquake

Active Android phone users in New Zealand and Greece will be notified in the event of a dangerous earthquake that might occur nearby. As stated in an article on Science MagazineThis is the goal announced by the leaders of Google, who have implemented a new functionality for smartphones. Thus, cell phones with the update installed will be able to detect seismic movements and earthquakes in the area and notify the user of the potential danger.

In New Zealand, the Pacific Plate collides with the Australian Plate and its regular grinding causes major earthquakes. An example of this is the trauma of 2011a Christchurch This resulted in nearly 200 deaths. Greece is instead spread across three tectonic plates, with devastating earthquakes occurring every year. “We have two big problems that we want to solve – says Mark Stugites, chief project engineer at Google – on the one hand, the urgent need to detect earthquakes in a timely manner and on the other hand the need to warn people directly and on time is possible.” This protective system takes advantage of the fact that light tends to travel through the Internet’s fiber-optic cables faster than earthquake waves. The warning systems currently in use rely on seismometer data to detect the size and magnitude of an earthquake, then send a warning, via a smartphone or loudspeaker, to residents of the area where the earthquake could occur. The anticipation may spread a few seconds before an earthquake, but often this is enough time for people to reach a safer location. Further deaths could be avoided by automatically shutting down elevators, gas lines, and other systems before seismic action began.

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Scientists explain that these are effective systems, but they are very expensive and complicated to develop. ShakeAlert, for example, which was deployed in California, Oregon, and Washington, took 15 years to build, $ 60 million, and required annual maintenance of $ 30 million. “The method by which smartphones are used – notes Maine Andreen Mayer, a seismologist who studies earthquake warning systems at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich – will have enormous potential. The ability to effectively predict seismic waves on a simple phone basis is an interesting acronym. Oh really “.

The researchers explained that modern smartphones are equipped with accelerometers that detect movement, and can be programmed to function as primitive seismometers, to detect the characteristic tremors caused by pressure waves and shear of earthquakes. “Getting users to download the software was a challenge – comments Richard Allen, a seismologist at UC Berkeley – it was much easier to implement the job of updating the standard system.” Android phones have been publicly detecting earthquakes since last year, but so far these results have only been available in Google’s search results. In some cases there were false alarms that are almost impossible to remove. When the phone detects an earthquake signal, it sends a message, with an approximate location, to a central server. However, for the discovery to be considered reliable, the algorithm must receive 100 similar reports. Once a seismic event is recognized, loud, full-screen notifications are displayed on smartphones in places of interest. “So far, Android phones have detected more than a thousand earthquakes worldwide – according to Allen reports – and the alerts work similarly to ShakeAlert and the Japanese warning system.”

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Other scientists suggest that this technique has yet to be proven, especially from the perspective of sparsely populated areas. In this sense, the authors argue, New Zealand will present a special challenge. Many earthquakes in the region originate in places where the population density is not high. “In these cases, a telephone system may not be the ideal method for detecting earthquakes and alerting users – assuming Caroline Francois Holden, an independent seismologist – early warning systems must be designed with different aspects of the area in mind. It will be implemented.” “I would like to refer to the quantitative metrics of the program’s performance -” François Holden concludes – but until the performance becomes clear, it is difficult to judge the system on the basis of Google data alone. The scars of the Christchurch earthquake are still open, all here. They know someone who has lost a friend, relative, or loved one. His family, so the promise to reduce the loss of life must be treated with extreme caution. “

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