A recent Haiti earthquake last Aug. 14, which tipped the scales at a powerful 7.2 magnitude, has claimed the lives of almost 2,000 people as of this writing. Another 9,000 people were injured, with rescuers still working round the clock to find buried survivors in the rubble, especially after the effects of Tropical Storm Grace which hammered the country merely two days later.  

These numbers, however, could be far greater if not for so-called "citizen seismologists" who helped scientists monitor this year's Haiti earthquake in real-time, reports ScienceNews.org

Way before the recent Haiti earthquake, scientists who were studying the nation's seismological risks created a network of volunteer citizen seismologists. These people collected a massive amount of data that proved critical in terms of tracking the earthquake and subsequent aftershocks, according to local geologist Dominique Boisson from the University of Haiti in the capital of Port-au-Prince. 

The volunteers have put up a website called Citizen Seismology in Haiti to showcase their findings and try to recruit more people for the cause. On the website, the volunteers also shared the equipment that they used to collect the data: a tiny seismograph based on the Raspberry Shake. These are far easier to obtain for civilian volunteers than industry-tier equipment, but the machines still proved invaluable despite their simpler construction. 

According to the data the volunteers collected, the recent Haiti earthquake had its epicenter close to the town of Petit Trou de Nippes, which is located on the nation's southern Peninsula. They were able to identify the Enriquillo-Plaintain Garden fault zone as perhaps the likely source of any devastating Haiti earthquake, like the one back in 2010 which killed around 200,000 people. 

Read also: Can NASA's New Telescope Predict Earthquakes?

Haiti Earthquake: Is Citizen-Based Seismology Really Invaluable? 

With the data that the Haiti earthquake volunteers collected, they might've said way more lives than they anticipated. And modern technology is making sure that they're not the only ones with this capability. 

In truth, you won't need a Raspberry Shake-based seismograph to detect earthquakes soon, because Google is planning to turn your Android smartphone into one

Here's how. Every Android device, be it a smartphone or a tablet, has built-in accelerators which can help turn them into makeshift seismometers. The company's long-term goal is to link up enough devices to allow push notification functions. As soon as the device detects a tremor, users will receive a notification before everything else gets worse. 

This could increase the time that people have for evacuations to safer areas, which could save even more lives in the long run. 

Will It Be Possible To Predict Earthquakes In the Future? 

The biggest problem with the likes of a devastating Haiti earthquake is that it's almost impossible to predict when one will hit. But perhaps in the future, it might be possible to do so with the help of AI

In an ideal situation, an AI algorithm developed by a team from the French Ecole Normale Superieure (ENS) would be able to predict a quake around two to three months before it hits. There is hope that this technology can help prevent widespread loss of life down the line. 

Related: Mexico's 2017 Earthquake Was So Powerful It Split Through Tectonic Plate: Study

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Written by RJ Pierce 

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