The way this system works is, in a nutshell, that a sensor located at a point where earthquakes originate
During the magnitude 7.4 earthquake of June 23, with an epicenter on the coasts of Oaxaca and felt strongly in Mexico City, the seismic alert from the government of the capital sounded 62 seconds in advance, according to the Head of Government, Claudia Sheinbaum, but SkyAlert app users had a few seconds more advantage.
According to information from that company, alerting its users to the Mexico City It was 118 seconds, which was due to the fact that it recently released its new version and improved its response times thanks to the use of new technologies, such as the cloud and better algorithms.
Álvaro Velasco, cofounder of SkyAlert, revealed that in recent months they have dedicated themselves to modifying everything from the architecture of their servers to coverage in new regions of the country, installing their own sensors, which are independent of those used by the capital government.
Our network is made up of more than 124 sensors that we have located in 14 states of the country, making it the largest seismic warning coverage in Mexico, ”he described in a talk with López-Dóriga Digital.
“We also changed the algorithm, that is, the way in which we alert users. Now we are going to convert in real time the intensities of the entire area that the earthquake is going to impact, and that is much more useful for decision-making because you can know how it will feel in the place where you are ” , he claimed.
The way in which this system works is, in a nutshell, that a sensor located at a point where earthquakes originate – such as the Pacific coast, although it has already been installed in places like Puebla, which have been the epicenter of tremors important – detect movement and verify it with a second sensor; Subsequently, it sends this information to the cloud via optics and from there an alert is generated much faster than the CDMX government’s seismic alert that reaches the cell phones of users who have the app installed.
Other changes in the new features that version 4 of this app has is that it will no longer only warn about the intensity of the earthquake at the place of origin, but it will also calculate the intensity in the place where the users are, who can also know how long it takes for the earthquake to arrive.
Initially, only the maximum time will be reported, for example ‘more than 80 seconds’; but later on we will be able to calculate more precisely how much is left to reach each user, which is a huge advantage because civil protection plans always depend on time, “he said.
The also in charge of the Marketing area of the company said that another feature is that, when a phone is in the “Do Not Disturb” mode, the application can ring when it comes to warn of the arrival of a very important earthquake.
When users download or update the app for the new version, a guide will appear to configure the new functions, he clarified. “This improvement in the application and in our seismic alert is the biggest change in the history of SkyAlert,” he said.
The difficult moments
Actually, the improvements in SkyAlert take several years, Velasco mentions, depending on the advancement of technology and the hard learning that mistakes leave behind.
“A complicated event was that of the summer of 2014, when we were still connected to the government’s Seismic Alert signal, which sent us the notification of an alleged strong earthquake, and we replicated it, but there was no earthquake and that caused us to huge crisis ”, he recalled.
“At that time we decided that we could not depend on third-party technology and that until that moment it had indicated to us that it would not have a new investment and that it continued to depend on radio waves.”
Mexico was the first country with a seismic warning system, but it was necessary to continue investing in it to improve it, he points out. “At that time we decided to invest in our own sensor network,” he said.
However, that led to problems with all the governments in office and, in fact, there are currently talks about bills to regulate services like SkyAlert’s.
I have told them that it is simply a matter of user right so that they can be better prevented, with newer technologies, “he stressed.
Initially, the Mexico City government’s Seismic Alert worked only through radio stations in the Valley of Mexico; however, not all radio stations were connected and not all people listened to this medium all the time; But for Velasco, the arrival of this company generated a kind of competition that resulted in important improvements to the public system, such as the installation of the speakers in public places that currently operate and their dissemination through television channels.
“We have always been open to dialogue, and in the chaos that we have had to defend ourselves legally, we are doing it and we are winning, the courts are giving us the reason that it is a universal right to be able to protect ourselves against natural risks,” he said. .
Civil protection, he said, is not only a matter of the state, but is made up of government, private initiative and the general population.
“Furthermore, competition is very healthy, so we continue to improve our algorithm, learning from past mistakes and listening to the user; taking into account the mentions and applause that users give us on social networks, “he admitted.
Currently, it has a presence in places like Hidalgo, Estado de México, Morelos, Chiapas and Veracruz; since its inception in 2011 it has had 9 million downloads and in its paid version – which costs 149 pesos a year – it has 440,000 subscribers.
Arrives in the United States
This company is also already working in the United States to activate a seismic alert system in California in conjunction with the local government. “So that they see that things can be done between public and private without fighting, and simply all supporting and cooperating in what we do well,” Velasco stressed.
“We are going to be the first Mexican technology company to arrive in Silicon Valley,” he boasted.