A team from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has created an app that turns the user's smartphone into a seismometer.
Richard Guy and Matt Faulkner’s CrowdShake reads data from a range of smartphones installed with the app in a certain area to determine if an earthquake is on the way.
Guy manages the Community Seismic Network at Caltech, and after realising some of the problems with the current way of predicting earthquakes in the Pasadena area, decided to work on an alternative.
Currently, the network hands out hundreds of accelerometers to volunteers who have to then plug the devices into their PC or router, ready to pick up potential earthquake vibrations. Guy found that the cost of the devices and the fact that some were never installed caused a few bumps in the road. However, an app means no hardware to buy or maintain.
The app registers activity from a smartphone’s accelerometer. The collected data is analysed, then scientists can pinpoint where an earthquake has started and how intense it is. The data can then be pushed back to users’ phones in surrounding areas to warn them how long they have until a damaging wave will arrive.
The CrowdShake app is still a prototype, but the inventors are initially targeting it in the developing world for those countries that have a high risk of earthquakes but no early warning infrastructures.