Your Android Phone will Now Help Detect Earthquakes
If you have an Android phone, chances are Google will be implementing a new piece of software on your phone to detect earthquakes in your local area.
Google recently launched what they call the “Android Earthquake Alerts System.” This new technology relies on hardware already built into your phone to detect seismic waves in your vicinity. Android phones will act as a miniature seismometer so imminent earthquakes can more easily be detected. The software will work together with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to not only research seismic activity in frequently affected regions but also alert people to threats as quickly as possible.Read More »
What Version of Android?
Android hones that support this software will include Lollipop (version 5.0) up to the latest release of the OS (operating system), Android 10 (version 10.0). All future phones with accelerometers built into them that are Android smartphones or Google’s line of personal devices (such as the Pixel) will also incorporate this new software. You are likely to have a device with the Lollipop OS installed if you own an Android device built after November 12, 2014.
If you want this software to be available for your device and it has an accelerometer, you can root your device and reinstall an open source packaged operating system that includes the Lollipop OS or higher. However, it is important to note that not all hardware is suitable for these software upgrades. You also run the risk of bricking your device, or in other words, rendering it unusable. Make sure to properly research your model and see if it is compatible for an upgrade.
No plans have been announced for implementing this new software on iPhones or other Apple devices.
How Does it Work?
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This new earthquake detection software will primarily rely on built-in accelerometers to detect changes in movement that are unnatural or unexpected. It will also be using information from an existing detection system, ShakeAlert, to deliver accurate data as soon as possible. ShakeAlert is used by the USGS and California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to send out warnings to residents facing an immediate crisis. ShakeAlert takes its data from a multitude of traditional seismometers that have been proven to work in the past.
Google’s new software will be able to use this to their advantage when collecting accurate data. Phones’ accelerometers will train the software to reduce the error involved in detecting whether an earthquake occurred or not in the local area. If an earthquake did not occur, but several phones detected data that suggests there was an earthquake, the algorithm can then rule out that data using reliable data from ShakeAlert to deliver more desirable results in the future.
Earthquakes detection software currently pays particular attention to the P-wave, or the primary wave. This body wave is the first wave to arrive when an earthquake starts. Soon after the P-wave, an S-wave will occur. This S-wave is often much more damaging compared to a P-wave. By detecting P-waves, earthquake detection systems can warn people to take cover before a more damaging strike occurs in the form of the S-wave. Google’s goal in establishing their new software is to help detect P-waves in areas where traditional seismometers and alert systems are not available to warn of imminent danger. By expanding on a network of mini phone seismometers, they can create a Google radar for detecting seismic activity.
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Why is it Necessary?
Although there are many advanced seismometers built to detect earthquakes, their reach does not extend into all areas. With a network of miniature phone seismometers, Google can more readily identify and warn users about earthquakes in their areas. This software will be especially functional in areas that experience a higher frequency of earthquakes, such as California.
California will be the primary testing location for now as Google collects data and uses it to improve their intelligence algorithms. Thanks to an already existing seismometer network, it is the most reliable location for Google to process data. Over time, they will be extending the software availability to other states and regions that require earthquake detection systems.
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Google’s new software will reportedly collect no personal data from your phone. Coarse location, which only detects roughly what city you are in, will be the only data Google collects for the sake of improving their algorithm. This coarse location data will aid in alerting your phone to any approaching threats. The software will not use fine location data (precise coordinates).
Google’s new software, which will be installed on the Lollipop OS and higher for Android devices with an accelerometer, will soon expand to new regions and warn its users about immediate earthquake threats. With the help of ShakeAlert, the alerts system will learn how to detect earthquakes in regions where traditional seismometers are not built and aid people in finding safety as quickly as possible.
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