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System crowdsources quake data from smartphones to save lives

Telecommunications

Crowdshake hopes to create a network of earthquake-sensing smartphones, triggering warnings on nearby devices when tremors are detected by those nearer the epicenter.

We’ve already seen an app called Earthquake Buddy harness the power of smartphones to help users find their loved ones in the aftermath of a natural disaster. However, a new development called Crowdshake could act as an early warning system, by triggering warnings on nearby smartphones when tremors are detected by those nearer the epicenter.

Created by the Caltech Community Seismic Network, the app uses the accelerometers, GPS and accurate timekeeping to provide data about potential earthquakes. In order to work, the system relies on a network of individuals using the app – when the accelerometers in multiple devices register a sudden jolt at the same time and approximate location, it is likely and earthquake has occurred. Using the data, the system can triangulate the location of the epicenter and automatically send alerts to others using the app within a certain radius. Given that seismic waves travel at around five kilometers a second, the app isn’t useful for those who can probably already feel the quake, but could give those on the outskirts time to get to safety. The video below explains more about the project:

One of the finalists of Vodafone’s Wireless Innovation Project, the creators want to focus on developing the system for developing nations, rather than the US partially because of a fear of lawsuits if the technology issues a false warning – or worse, fails to issue a warning, according to reports. However, the app is free for residents to download from Google Play, and also offers a cheaper alternative to the installation of expensive early warning systems. How else can data be crowdsourced from the smartphones we carry in our pockets?

Spotted by: Alexia Maury

Website: www.csn.caltech.edu

Contact: www.csn.caltech.edu/contact

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