Android has now rolled out earthquake alerts as part of a specialized algorithm that designed to detect earthquakes and then send warnings to everyone in the vicinity who could be affected by them

Hot News, folks! Google has rolled out an Android phone-powered alert system for earthquakes worldwide! It has been out for a minute now, but not everyone knows about it, so it’s worth looking into. As soon as you opt in to this service, the accelerometer in your Android joins one data point of billions of others, all part of a specialized algorithm designed to detect earthquakes and then send warnings to everyone in the vicinity who could be affected by them.

This feature is pretty crazy because it’s only possible due to Android phones’ insane number out there and Google’s smart use of algorithms on big data. It’s just one more example of the astounding innovative practices revealing smartphone’s potential. These things are for more than only social media, and features like this are proving it.

Google has teamed up with the United States Geological Survey and the California Office of Emergency Services to send these agencies’ earthquake alerts to Android users in California. Of course, these alerts are those generated by the ShakeAlert system. And which has already been in place and uses data that comes from traditional seismometers.

However, the significant steps in Google’s master plan to help with earthquake awareness powered by Android! Localized results will show in Google searches for earthquakes, all based on the data collected over Android phones participating in the linkup.

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Essentially, the idea here is if you think you’re experiencing an earthquake, then you can head over to Google and search it up to figure out if that’s exactly what you’re experiencing or if it’s something else. Once the system has become more accurate, and Google is satisfied, the final plan is to actively send out earthquake warnings to folks who live in regions where seismometer-based warning systems aren’t available. This and other outdoor safety apps all have the potential to save thousands of lives from earthquakes in the future.

Don’t worry, though. The data collected as part of this program  “de-identified” from users. The deal here is that Google only needs general location information for this concept to be useful. Both the earthquake alerts and the detection system are opt-in, too.

The cool thing is an Android phone can become a “mini seismometer” due to the internal accelerometer. And the device inside your phone detects if you rotate it. Android’s system takes out the data collected by that specialized sensor to figure out if the phone is shaking (don’t worry, it only does this when the phone is plugged in and not in use).

Android phones are so sensitive that they can detect both key types of earthquake waves, which is simply remarkable. They can see both P waves and S waves. Every individual phone can notice if something similar to an earthquake is happening. But many phones are needed to determine if it’s an earthquake.

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Types of Waves

There are two types of waves to break it down to the technical level, as mentioned above. The P wave (primary wave) of an earthquake is the first and fastest wave from an earthquake’s epicenter. Meanwhile, the S wave (secondary wave) is much slower but can be much more significant and cause more damage. Luckily, this system can detect both. This means that it can pick up the P waves of an earthquake and then let people know to prepare for the much more dangerous S wave.

This Google system can locate the epicenter of the quake and use these phones to determine its strength. The biggest key thing in the whole program is that each phone close to the earthquake. It can help the people who are further away to be aware and potentially get out in time to avoid injury.

Earthquakes move incredibly fast. However, and this speed means that Google’s Android-based warning system won’t be able to put a human in the loop at any point. This is because the earthquake warnings will range from “a couple of seconds” near the epicenter to 30 or 45 seconds outside.

Google’s eventual plan is to provide different alert levels for distant earthquakes. That’s why the company has consulted with seismologists both on the system’s design and how the alerts should appear. Over the long term, Google plans to craft an API based on this earthquake detection system. It doesn’t plan to use this system on iPhones. But then Apple would be free to use it if the API comes out.

The exciting factor, however, is what other systems would benefit from an earthquake detection API. For example, someone could build a device that incorporates this software to automatically stop an elevator in motion on the next floor and open the door. And allowing people to disembark before the earthquake hits. Gas valves could turned off automatically. Medical procedures could remotely halted. Fire stations could be on alert, doors open, and ready to roll. Airplane landings could aborted if the earthquake was about to hit. Trains could slow down.

The possibilities, well, they’re endless.

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