It looks like crowdsourcing just got a whole new definition — and it's earth-shattering, to say the least. A team of researchers have come up with an app for phones that run on Android — with one for iOS to come — that can help detect earthquakes.
Developed by scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, MyShake utilizes a special algorithm to harness onboard accelerometers (AKA a sensor that can pick up on movement, orient the device in question and store it all as data — like what enables a 3D Touch feature to function) found within a typical Android phone to pick up on seismic movement that ranks as high as above a magnitude of 5 or higher on the Richter scale within a radius of a little more than six miles (or 10 kilometers).
Paired with GPS capabilities installed in almost every (if not each and every) smartphone, the app is able to locate exactly where any disruptive rumblings due to shifting tectonic plates or fault lines are occurring, and then subsequently sends the data over to Berkeley's Seismological Laboratory, where it can be analyzed to ensure that proper preventative actions can be taken.
An added bonus? The app is able to stay running in the background with minimal power use, which means MyShake is constantly detecting unusual or alarming seismic shifts without being a total battery drain, keeping the user safe and their phone juiced.
"MyShake cannot replace traditional seismic networks like those run by the U.S. Geological Survey, UC Berkeley, the University of Washington and Caltech, but we think MyShake can make earthquake early warning faster and more accurate in areas that have a traditional seismic network, and can provide life-saving early warning in countries that have no seismic network," explained app project leader Richard Allen, director of Berkeley's seismological lab, about the full utility of the app, in an official statement made by the university.
The location of the app's development team is a no-brainer — even though only 10 U.S. states (all of them located on the West Coast) are affected the most out of all 50, California is one of the top three — which means that the estimated 16 million smartphones could potentially detect these infrastructure-damaging quakes before they happen.
The app might even be useful for users who live farther away from active fault lines, especially considering unusual and/or unprecedented instances of earthquake activity, like a mild (and almost unheard of) shake in New Jersey that took place on Jan. 2, 2016, or one that rocked Virginia in 2011 and was felt all the way up into the New York City metropolitan area and beyond.
MyShake is now available for download via the Google Play Store as of Feb. 12.
Photo: Martin Luff | Flickr