Google Launches Earthquake Detection Early Alert System

The new feature is available on Android devices since Tuesday.
Fabienne Lang

Detecting earthquakes ahead of time and alerting as many people as possible can save a huge amount of lives, even if it's just seconds beforehand. It's been a tricky system to implement, though. 

So when Google announced on Tuesday that its earthquake detection and early alert system for Android devices was live, the news was welcomed with open arms. 

Google used Android for the system, providing future security to millions of people worldwide.


It started in California

Google's detection system first took off in California, an earthquake-prone region, as they worked alongside the United States Geological Survey, and California Governor's Office of Emergency Services to send out their alerts powered by ShakeAlert to Android users.

Developed by leading seismologists, the ShakeAlert system encompasses over 700 seismometers set up across California. 

However, as not every country or state in the world is able to install as many as 700 seismometers, Google decided to utilize Android's massive reach and platform to detect earthquakes.

Essentially, this means that if you own an Android phone, it can act as a little seismometer. The data collected from your Android would join the millions of other Android users' information to become the world's largest earthquake detection network. 

Pretty neat!

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As per Google, the reason this is possible is because every phone comes equipped with little accelerometers that pick up when an earthquake may be on the way. If the phone believes this may be an earthquake, it sends a signal to Google's earthquake detection server, along with your location. Combining this information with other Android phones in or near the same location, Google then collates the data to find out whether this is truly an earthquake. 

It sounds like a reliable system, however, it may bring up questions of personal data worries given the location of the Android phone (and naturally, its user) has to be shared. That said, is it that big a price to pay for potentially saving millions of lives before an earthquake hits? Up to you to decide.