California – The new Android app developed by scientists at UC Berkeley, MyShake, was unveiled on Friday and it’s now available on Google Play Store for free downloading.

The app’s purpose is to use smartphones’ accelerometers in order to detect earthquakes and collect data for researchers to analyze. MyShake was designed by researchers to track tremors and potentially save lives. According to scientists from the UC Berkeley, the app’s goal is to create a worldwide seismic detection network, capable of warning users from incoming quakes or tremors.

Once enough people are using it and the bugs are worked out, however, UC Berkeley seismologists plan to use the data to warn people miles from ground zero that shaking is rumbling their way. Credit: UC Berkeley/MyShake

MyShake is simple and for everybody, even countries

Basically, when the app detects a quake-like vibration it sends the information to a central system for analysis. Then, using a specific algorithm, scientists can confirm if it’s an actual earthquake and measure its location and magnitude.

Researchers claim that the information can be used to issue and alert of imminent ground shaking. The only limitation for the MyShake app is that in order for it to work, the phone has to be laid on a flat surface.

This app can also provide a way for countries with no seismic networks such as Peru, Iran or Nepal to warn their population of upcoming earthquakes, using only their phones. Once enough people are using the app, the plan is to use the data to warn people miles from ground zero from the quake heading towards them.

Seismologists from the University of California, Berkeley assure that once enough users have downloaded the app, any bugs will be fixed and the network will be able to notify users in real-time.

A crowdsourced seismic network may be the only option today for many earthquake-prone developing countries, such as Nepal or Peru. Credit: Berkeley News/MyShake

But, how does MyShake really work?

MyShake works by continually monitoring the phone’s accelerometers and testing every motion that fits in the earthquake’s profile. If the algorithm links the shaking to a possible quake, it sends back the data to the UC Berkeley.

If at least four phones detect the same shaking within a 10-kilometer radius from the epicenter, the program confirms there’s an earthquake. It’s worth to notice that the app will only work when the phone is plugged in and connected to Wi-Fi.

Silicon Valley programmers developed the algorithm responsible for the app’s performance. It was designed in the same way games are, around the phone’s orientation sensor, known as the accelerometer.

Myshake runs in the background of the operating system with little power so that a phone’s onboard accelerometers can record local shaking any time of the day or night. Credit: Berkeley News/MyShake

Users will not have to worry about data usage, storage or battery use on MyShake, as it requires the lowest amount of data and battery to work. In addition, the app’s earthquake detection will be able to trigger an alert to users near the impact zone, providing people with a countdown until trembling gets there.

Now, the average smartphone sensitivity can only record earthquakes above magnitude 5 within 6 miles. However, the earthquake’s location, magnitude and origin time can be estimated if enough people have the MyShake app within 60 miles.

According to a report from Ericsson Mobility, there are 3.4 billion smartphone subscriptions worldwide, therefore, giving the chance for people to cover the globe in a seismic network.

Source: Berkeley News