Android phones will be used to sense earthquakes around the world and may one day be capable of issuing global alerts, Google reported Tuesday when it introduced its first massive seismic alert system in California.
Google, which helped develop Android, indicated that devices with that operating system will begin to detect earthquakes around the world using their accelerometers, which are instruments that detect movement.
“Your Android phone can be a tiny seismograph, joining millions of other Android phones to create the world’s largest earthquake detection network,” Google noted in a blog.
Currently, more than 2 billion devices have the Android operating system.
Hundreds of millions of people live in earthquake-prone areas. But many nations lack the resources to build seismic warning and detection systems, Google noted.
Initially, the information will be used to provide prompt and accurate information on Google Search. But Google indicated that it could start sending seismic alerts next year.
California won’t have to wait that long.
Google worked in collaboration with California and the United States Geological Survey to create a seismic alert on all devices that have the mobile phone operating system. Android users with location services turned on and near an earthquake of magnitude greater than 4.5 will receive a full-screen alert warning them to find a safe place.
The screen will also provide estimates of the magnitude of the earthquake and its distance from the user.
The alert is based on the predicted force according to the user’s location and certain intensity levels. Depending on the distance of the earthquake, people could be alerted several seconds, and even up to a minute, in advance.
The alerts are generated by California’s ShakeAlert system, which uses the signals from more than 700 seismographs installed in various parts of the entity that can perceive seismic waves.
However, users will not have to download the MyShake app to receive the alerts. The app, developed by the University of California Berkeley campus and released last year, has been downloaded by only about one million of California’s 40 million residents. In contrast, many millions of inhabitants of the entity own Android phones.
“This announcement means that California’s world-class seismic alert system will be a standard feature on all Android phones, giving millions of people valuable seconds to take cover when the great earthquake hits,” Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement.
IPhone users will not receive alerts through Apple’s operating system, but can download the MyShake app.
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