A new device for detecting earthquakes might be right in our hands. Researchers believe that smartphones have the capacity of informing us on seismic movement.
Could it be possible for you smartphone to be used for something that might sound impossible? Experts stated that your smartphone can warn people about early seismic signs.
It seems that the sensors from the GPS that exists in the majority of smartphones, can detect the very first signs of earthquakes with a magnitude of seven degrees or higher.
The information collected by the GPS could be handled to warn people a few seconds before the earthquake reaches their area.
The lead researcher of the study, geophysicist Sarah Minson, stated that the GPS we have on our phones is amazing. For example, if we were to change the position of our phone and move it a few inches to the right, the device will know exactly the new position of it.This is what made researchers to believe that the accelerometers that are built inside a smartphone could help detect seismic movement.
One role of the accelerometer is to inform the phone about its position, whether it is held vertically or horizontally, and trough this it adjust the position of the screen.
Minson and her team created a fictional data set of mobile phone readings that would have been intercepted during an earthquakes of 7 degrees in the north of California, on the Hayward fault.
After that, they looked at the data intercepted by the state of the art GPS seismic sensors from Japan, during the 9 degrees earthquake that occurred in 2011 in Tohoku. However, the information provided by the Japanese sensors was much more detailed, than what a standard smartphone would provide, so scientists choose only the information they consider would be meaningful for a smartphone.
Having this two sets of information to study and compare, scientists wanted to check if a smartphone could manage to detect a seismic wave when occurring, determine its location and its magnitude.
The most challenging part when it comes to smart phones and earthquake detection, was the fact that these devices are mainly in motion as we carry them on us when we are out or on the go. In this situation being able to tell if the ground is moving or not, can be quite difficult.
Researchers found a solution for this issue, that would make the distinction between an earthquake motion and any other type of motions.
Using the fictional data form the Hayward fault, they though that if a smartphone along with other four phones around it would intercept the same amount of movement at the same time and 100 other phones in the area would act the same, then the scientist’s early warning system would acknowledge that an earthquake had taken place and would warn the rest of the people.
The new technique was found slightly unbelievable by geodesist Yehudi Bock, from UC San Diego, even though he admitted that the information on paper was logical.He stated that he was quite skeptical whether the system would actually be efficient in a real life situation and he believed that it would falsely alarm people.
Researchers explained that it is possible for the system not to be as exact in real situations as it is on paper, but future real world tests will determine if that is true or not.
The experiment will be conducted the upcoming year, when the team of scientists will test the smartphone system in Chile.
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