Google is creating a global earthquake early warning system based on Android. The first version of the system was out on August 11. If you enabled the system on an Android phone, the algorithm for detecting earthquakes collects data through the accelerometer in the phone. Eventually, the system will automatically send warnings to people who may be affected by the earthquake.
Google is rolling out the system in phases. First, Google is working with the U.S. Geological Survey and the California Office of Emergency Services to send the agency’s earthquake alert to Android phone users in the state. These earthquake warnings are generated by the ShakeAlert system, which uses traditional seismographs to generate data.
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Marc Stogaitis, chief software engineer for Google’s Android system, said: ‘It’d be great if there were just seismometer-based systems everywhere that could detect earthquakes. That’s not really practical and it’s unlikely to have global coverage because seismometers are extremely expensive. They have to be constantly maintained, you need a lot of them in an area to really have a good earthquake early warning system.’
Therefore, Google plans to support the earthquake detection system by Android phones in the second and third phases. In the second stage, Google will display localized results in Google Search Earthquake based on data detected from Android phones.
Ultimately, after the accuracy of the system gets better, Google will actively promote earthquake warnings to people living in areas without seismograph warning systems.
Stogaitis further explained that the information is desensitization data from users. Google only needs ‘rough’ location information to perform earthquake detection. Also, the seismic detection system is a selective service.
How Does The Earthquake Warning System Work?
The working principle of the earthquake warning system based on the Android system is as follows:
The smartphone can detect the P wave and S wave in the seismic wave through the accelerometer attached to the smartphone. In the earthquake, the P wave is the fastest signal equipment can generate. The S wave (secondary wave) is slower but more harmful. The P wave can be something that tells you to prepare for the S wave.
The Android system aggregates data from thousands of smartphones. It uses Bayesian filters and other algorithms to convert these data into sufficiently accurate earthquake data to locate the epicenter, determine the earthquake intensity, and issue earthquake warnings.
However, this system still has certain limitations. It cannot warn all users before the earthquake. It is difficult for users who are closest to the earthquake epicenter to get alarm in time. This system cannot predict the earthquake in advance, but only quickly locate the epicenter and determine the earthquake intensity after the earthquake occurs.
Google will launch this service through Google Mobile Services. This means that foreign users can use it through system updates.
At present, Google has begun to use the existing seismograph network to provide earthquake warnings in California. As for the earthquake warning system based on aggregated data from Android phones, it has not yet launched.