MyShake is a new mobile app that relies on a smartphone’s motion sensor to detect earthquakes. Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and Deutsche Telekom say the app supplies information on seismic activity that could lead to an early warning.
The software is designed to be downloaded by numerous smartphone owners. The app is able to distinguish between normal movement and the amplitude of an earthquake that tops a magnitude of 5 on the Richter scale, the researchers said. If the app senses an earthquake, it sends the information to a system center. If a lot of people are experiencing a quake then hopefully a warning can be issued before the force reaches some areas. What this means is the more people that download the software, the more accurate the system will be.
In the United States, the government and private sector are already working on upgrading early warning systems. Developing nations, however, can’t always afford the same level of technology, according to experts. MyShake is designed to be a less expensive option.
“A crowdsourced seismic network may be the only option today for many earthquake-prone developing countries, such as Nepal or Peru, that have sparse or no ground-based seismic network or early warning system, but do have millions of smartphone users,” wrote Richard Allen, the leader of the app project and the director of the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory.
Last April 25, I was in Nepal on a hiking trip when the massive quake hit and killed more than 8,000 people. Living most of my life in Southern California, I’ve been shaken in lots of earthquakes, including the 1994 Northridge quake. But I’d never experienced anything as strong or that lasted as long as Nepal’s temblor. In Kathmandu, I saw the cremations of two elderly people who died because they weren’t fast enough in getting away from their houses before they collapsed. A few extra seconds might have made the difference.
If MyShake works as billed, I hope everyone in Nepal and every other nation that experiences seismic activity downloads the app.