Google will set up a global earthquake detection system that will rely on data transmitted by Android devices around the world, and it will issue warnings to those who may be affected.
The Search Engine giant launched the first stage of this plan on Tuesday with an alert system intended for the Californian population. The latter is fed by data from several hundred seismometers installed across California and was created in collaboration with the United States Institute of Geological Studies (USGS), in particular responsible for monitoring seismic activity in the country and around the world.
When an earthquake is detected, owners of Android devices in the affected region will receive the information, not only with indications about the strength of the quake but also suggested actions to take for protection (get on the ground, shelter under a table, for example).
The second step of Google’s project is, however, much more ambitious: transforming millions of Android devices around the world into as many small mobile seismometers.
Most smartphones have accelerometers that can detect movement as well as signs that an earthquake is occurring. Google plans to use this data to feed a global central seismic shock detection server.
By doing a Google search when an earthquake is felt, it will then be possible to quickly find information and suggestions for what to do next, based on the data collected.
This system should be particularly useful in areas of the world that do not have a well-developed seismometer network, for example in California.
An early warning system can help people prepare for an earthquake, but the infrastructure to detect earthquakes and broadcast alerts to everyone and all are expensive to deploy, explained in a blog post. Marc Stogaitis, a computer engineer for Android. We saw it as an opportunity to use Android to quickly provide useful information about earthquakes.