If you’ve ever experienced an earthquake you’ll know that they can rapidly create a vast amount of damage, with effects lasting years. The US Geological Survey estimated that the economic losses resulting from the 7.9 magnitude quake that struck Nepal in April 2016 to be as much as $10billion.
The current Early Earthquake Warning (EEW) systems only provide seconds to minutes of warning, which allows those in the area a very small amount of time to evacuate or move to a safe area. These EEW systems also only function in areas with a large network of seismological recorders, meaning that in more remote areas, such as Nepal, no warning system is in place.
Scientists at UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory have been working hard to develop an app to record earthquake activity. The aim is to make earthquake warning systems faster and more accurate in areas where there are already seismic networks, but also to provide seismic data for those remote areas where seismic activity is not tracked.
The app utilizes the motion detectors of a smartphone to detect ground motion, sending the data back to the lab for analysis. The phone needs to be turned on, located on a horizontal surface and with Wi-Fi switched on in order to collect data. The app also provides push notifications of earthquakes within a set distance (as determined by the user). The MyShake app was released in February 2016 and has since been downloaded by nearly 200,000 users. On an average day, 8,000 phones are providing data to the MyShake archives.