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Your Android phone can now detect earthquakes, send early alerts

Google is set to integrate earthquake alerts in Android devices. With the help of the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), earthquake alerts were sent to Android users in California. These alerts were powered by ShakeAlert, an earthquake early warning (EEW) system that detects shakes that are imminent after the earthquake has begun.

The ShakeAlert system was developed by the seismologists using signals from more than 700 seismometers installed across the state by USGS, Cal OES, University of California Berkeley, and the California Institute of Technology.

In the previous few months, we have seen a huge number of minor earthquakes all over India. These earthquake alerts received a few seconds prior to an earthquake may help people to react quickly and find shelter before the shaking begins. Users will also be access to information regarding any upcoming earthquake when they search on their devices.

“It’d be great if there were just seismometer-based systems everywhere that could detect earthquakes,” says Marc Stogaitis, principle Android software engineer at Google. However, he explains, “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.”

After testing in California, Google aims to provide earthquake alerts worldwide by using your Android smartphone as a mini seismometer. Google will accomplish these by using accelerometers installed in all smartphones. If your smartphone deducts something remotely close to an earthquake, it will send a signal to their earthquake detection server. This signal will also include a “coarse” location where the shaking was experienced.

Google will also show localised results in Google searches as well when you search for ‘earthquake’ or ‘earthquake near me’. This will show you relevant results in your area along with information on what to do after such an event.

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