MyShake Android App Helps Detect Earthquakes - InformationWeek

InformationWeek is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

IoT
IoT
Mobile // Mobile Applications
News
2/14/2016
11:05 AM
50%
50%

MyShake Android App Helps Detect Earthquakes

UC Berkeley scientists have launched a smartphone app that uses smartphones to pinpoint the location and intensity of earthquakes. The app is available to Android users through Google Play.

9 Biographies Of Tech Icons You Should Know
9 Biographies Of Tech Icons You Should Know
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

In an effort to help people in earthquake prone areas, a smartphone application called MyShake, developed by University of California Berkeley scientists, uses the phone's sensors to detect movement caused by tremors in the ground.

Available for Android phones through Google Play, the free app runs silently in the background on a user's phone, using very little power. When the shaking fits the vibrational profile of an earthquake, the app sends the anonymous information to a central system that confirms the location and magnitude of the quake.

The UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory hopes to create a dense network that could one day provide warnings prior to shaking.

The data will also be used to study earthquake processes as part of the lab's ongoing effort to reduce the impact of future quakes.

(Image: UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory)

(Image: UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory)

The location, origin time, and magnitude of the earthquake are determined on the basis of multiple triggers from the network of phones.

This information can be used to estimate the shaking intensity and the remaining time until damaging waves arrive at a target location.

"This is a citizen science project," Richard Allen, director of the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory at UC Berkeley, told the Los Angeles Times on Feb. 12. "This is an app that provides information, education, motivation -- to the people who've downloaded it -- to get ready for earthquakes. Those same people are contributing to our further understanding of earthquakes, because they're collecting data that will help us better understand the earthquake process."

A research article on the app published in the journal Science Advances noted smartphones are much more prevalent than traditional networks and contain accelerometers that can also be used to detect earthquakes.

"MyShake could be used to enhance earthquake early warning (EEW) in regions with traditional networks and could provide the only EEW capability in regions without," according to the article. "In addition, the seismic waveforms recorded could be used to deliver rapid microseism maps, study impacts on buildings, and possibly image shallow earth structure and earthquake rupture kinematics."

The MyShake design is different in that we use past earthquake information to develop a classifier algorithm to identify earthquake shaking on a single phone and then communicate with a centralized processing center (CPC).

Previous work has also demonstrated that GPS sensors on smartphones -- rather than the accelerometer -- can be used to detect earthquakes and potentially provide a warning.

The article noted that in the future, existing EEW systems that use traditional seismic and geodetic networks could benefit from MyShake, as MyShake could benefit from integration of data from traditional networks.

[Which smartphone has the best rumors: The iPhone 7 or the Galaxy S7?]

With the news that the battered city of Christchurch, New Zealand, was struck by yet another serious earthquake, and given the recent tremor that rattled Oklahoma, social media and smartphone cameras have been distributing images and information. The MyShake app could be a big benefit in helping people get out of harm's way in time.

The app also provides users with information about recent quakes around the world, as well as info on some of the history’s biggest and most devastating seismic events.

Does your company offer the most rewarding place to work in IT? Do you know of an organization that stands out from the pack when it comes to how IT workers are treated? Make your voice heard. Submit your entry now for InformationWeek's People's Choice Award. Full details and a submission form can be found here.

Nathan Eddy is a freelance writer for InformationWeek. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin. View Full Bio

We welcome your comments on this topic on our social media channels, or [contact us directly] with questions about the site.
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
Michelle
50%
50%
Michelle,
User Rank: Ninja
2/15/2016 | 1:32:24 PM
Data on the ground
This app sounds a lot like the weather reporting app, mPING, created by the National Weather Service. The NWS app lets users record weather data as it happens. The app does no autodection but it is helping the NWS gather important weather data.
danielcawrey
50%
50%
danielcawrey,
User Rank: Ninja
2/15/2016 | 12:38:20 PM
Re: Is it reliable?
Earthquakes are a scary thing, especially when you live in an area prone to them.

This is great that we're building some first response technology via phones to get a better handle on where and when earthquakes occur. This sounds like some really fantastic technology. 
Whoopty
50%
50%
Whoopty,
User Rank: Ninja
2/15/2016 | 7:44:38 AM
Great but...
This seems like a reall smart way to use distributed technology to advance scientific research and provide an advanced warning system, but I am concerned about false positives. If a large number of users were able to coordinate shaking their phones, would it throw up a warning that a quake was pending?
Li Tan
50%
50%
Li Tan,
User Rank: Ninja
2/14/2016 | 9:17:45 PM
Is it reliable?
The theory expalined sounds reasonable but how does it work in reality? If the App raised the alarm that there is earthquake, how should we react to it? Shall we take action immediately or hold on for the official news?
Slideshows
What Digital Transformation Is (And Isn't)
Cynthia Harvey, Freelance Journalist, InformationWeek,  12/4/2019
Commentary
Watch Out for New Barriers to Faster Software Development
Lisa Morgan, Freelance Writer,  12/3/2019
Commentary
If DevOps Is So Awesome, Why Is Your Initiative Failing?
Guest Commentary, Guest Commentary,  12/2/2019
White Papers
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
Video
Current Issue
Getting Started With Emerging Technologies
Looking to help your enterprise IT team ease the stress of putting new/emerging technologies such as AI, machine learning and IoT to work for their organizations? There are a few ways to get off on the right foot. In this report we share some expert advice on how to approach some of these seemingly daunting tech challenges.
Slideshows
Flash Poll