MyShake app – helping seismologists keep track of earthquakes

by: Edgar CervantesFebruary 13, 2016
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MyShake app may not bring all the boys to the yard, but it may save your life one day. Or at least it may serve as a great way to track and alert people when a significant earthquake hits your area.

The application was developed by a group of scientists from UC Berkeley, and it is meant to help seismologists do their job. But the idea is a bit different, as this project aims to take advantage of the fact that we all carry smartphones. Yes… it is crowdsourced. Seismometer sensors are not cheap, so getting a little help from app users will go a long way.

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But how can a smartphone even detect an earthquake? Well, these gadgets do have gyroscopes, which can recognize movement. But it does seem a little useless for this case, because we are always moving around – so in a chart it may look like there is seismic activity all day.

One phone alone can do nothing, but the idea is to get plenty of users on board, then data can start making sense. If, say, 100 people around a specific vicinity register very similar activity at the same time, then we can deduce it is not them moving, but everything around them. It seems the set limit is 60%; if more than that amount of users show seismic activity, an alert will go off. Apparently phones can effectively record earthquakes of magnitude 5 or greater, which are really the ones that matter.

The project is still taking off, so we don’t know how far it can go. It sure seems like something some regions should advertise more. Off the top of my head, I can think of areas like California or Japan. At some point they could even use it as a system that works along with other seismometers.

Want to help out? Go ahead and download the app. Who is signing up?

Download the MyShake app