MyShake App Making Earthquake Prediction Easier
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

Photo: Flickr


New technology and modern innovations have played an ever-increasing role in the fight against global poverty in the 21st century, but where do these new tools and practices come from? Most come from established technology and manufacturing firms like GE, IBM and Apple. Major universities are also hotbeds for invention. However, in the last five years there has been a surge in innovation coming from grassroots and non-traditional organizations with the help of social media and other sites, such as Kickstarter. Keeping with the changing tides, the University of California at Irvine launched a contest in May of this year encouraging students to propose original solutions for poverty relief.

The contest took development out of its traditional setting and encouraged all to participate. Undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and UCI alumni were all invited to come together and take part. The Blum Center for Global Engagement hosted the challenge. The goal of the challenge, as Blum Center Director Richard Mathew states, was “to bring the vast stock of ingenuity, creativity, knowledge and passion that exists across the campus to bear on alleviating poverty at home and abroad.” The Solutions Challenge presented an unorthodox approach to relief development as it aimed to bring minds of all backgrounds together in the hopes of producing greater results.

Participants were only required to submit a “feasible idea.” That is to say that the participants did not need to be engineers. All submissions had to meet three criteria, however. First, the proposals had to elaborate on the specific impact on poverty that the device or technology would address. Second, the proposal had to be reasonably realistic and achievable given limited time and resources. Finally, participants had to enumerate the scope their proposal would cover as long as their long-term goals. Three finalists were chosen and met with potential investors in a private venue.

First place was given to PhD student Katya Cherukumilli. Her proposal was to use certain minerals to remove toxic fluoride from drinking water in rural India. Erik Peterson, a resident of Irvine, won second place with his proposal for Lifesign, which would be a device given to homeless citizens as a register that would include data such as health information, hometown and needed services. Replacing handwritten signs, the device would show a code to be entered on the Lifesign website to donate to certain causes and services. Irene Beltran, an undergrad at UCI, took home third place with her “Lab on a Chip” proposal. The chip is tiny and only requires a drop of blood to test for tuberculosis. All three finalists are now consulting with industry leaders and investors.

UC Irvine’s challenge was inspired in part by another school in the University of California system. UC Berkeley’s Development Impact Lab runs a similar contest every year, encouraging engineers, computer scientists and IT specialists to develop technology-based ideas for global aid. UC Irvine’s contest encourages a more theoretical approach, prioritizing creativity in ideas ahead of a physical prototype.

Joe Kitaj

Sources: Govtech, Blumcenter, Berkeley
Photo: UCI

uc global food initiative
University of California is determined to downsize hunger and make the world a healthier place. UC will research what is causing world hunger, how it could be solved, and then it will put its findings to work.

It is estimated that by the year 2025, the world’s population will reach eight billion, and UC wants to nutritiously feed all of the eight billion people.

President Janet Napolitano announced the launch of the UC Global Food Initiative at the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, CA on July 1, 2014. This program will be directed by Napolitano and the 10 UC chancellors.

“Our goal is audacious, and it is far-reaching. It is our intent to do everything in our power to put the world on a pathway to feed itself in ways that are nutritious and sustainable,” said Napolitano during a press conference on July 1. Napolitano went on to explain that the issue of “food” does not just consist of what people eat, but it also has to deal with delivery systems, population growth, climate issues and policy. She went on to say that, every night, one billion people go to bed hungry, while half a billion people are suffering from obesity.

There is already so much research going on at the different UC labs. For example, at the Berkeley lab, researchers have developed a smart cookstove called the Darfur stove. This stove is able to address food security issues caused by misplaced people in Darfur. At the same time, the Darfur stove is able to decrease women’s exposure to violence while collecting firewood.

Napolitano went on to explain that the idea of this organization is not to come up with a solution to problems that have to deal with food but to provide information and examples for communities in California and around the world on how to provide food security and sustainable food.

Some of the smaller ways the initiative will address food issues is by incorporating these issues in undergraduate and graduate classes.

In addition to traditional research topics such as agriculture, health and the environment, the program will also research topics such as law, humanities, education and social science to help develop discussion about food issues.

– Priscilla Rodarte

Sources: Contra Costa Times, University of California Office of the President, University of California Office of the President, Cookstove Projects, University of California
Photo: UCR Today