The National Earthquake Information Center reports that millions of earthquakes occur worldwide every year. Of those millions, 30,000 earthquakes are a five or above on the magnitude scale, which can cause severe damage and high death tolls. The MyShake app is hoping to prevent some of the damages earthquakes cause.
Unfortunately, many countries prone to earthquakes happen to be developing countries and the economic cost and loss of lives tend to be higher. For example, Haiti’s 2010 earthquake resulted in $14 billion in damage and somewhere between 220,000-316,000 deaths.
Early warning systems are crucial to reducing the loss of life and damages. Traditionally, networks of seismic sensors measure vibrations in the earth to predict earthquakes. However, many developing countries lack these systems. The Android app MyShake can be a functional alternative to the expensive and complex seismic networks.
A research team at the University of California at Berkeley and Deutsche Telekom AGA collaborated to develop a free app that uses the accelerometer in cell phones to detect possible earthquakes. It is able to correctly identify movement caused by earthquakes as opposed to human movement.
If an earthquake is detected, the app sends the information to the Berkeley labs to confirm the location and magnitude. Testing shows the MyShake app has 93% accuracy and can also predict when aftershocks will occur.
However, this is the early version of the app which is being used to collect global data to establish patterns and trends. The newer version, MyShake 2.0 will be able to issue early warning alerts. Currently, the researchers at Berkeley are working on the iPhone app.
In a statement, Deutsche Telekom said “For many earthquake-prone developing countries such as Nepal or Peru, MyShake could warn potentially affected persons valuable seconds earlier and, ideally, save lives…These countries currently have either only a sparse ground-based seismic network or early warning system, or none at all — but do have millions of smartphone users.”
Two months after its release, the MyShake app had been downloaded 150,000 times. The team encourages everyone to download the app because it can possibly build an extensive worldwide network of earthquake sensors that can give countries without seismic networks an early warning system.
– Karla Umanzor