Want to know when an earthquake is coming your way? Now your smartphone will soon be able to warn you! A US team of Geological Survey (USGS) researchers have proved in a study, that it is possible to detect earthquakes with the help of global positioning system (GPS) receivers located in smartphones. The study was published in ‘Science Advances’.
This will also need crowd-sourced alerts that smartphone users will receive, which scientists will be able to track, to analyse them, and warn people. USGS geophysicist and lead author of the study, Sarah Minson explained, “Crowd-sourced alerting means that the community will benefit by data generated from the community.”
Automated systems will receive these alerts from users from a single place, which then will warn the other smartphone users by tracking their GPS systems and the sensors used in the phone. Even as few as 5,000 users sending out alerts could help detect and analyse the impact, and will help spread the word to others in surrounding areas.
Researchers tested the feasibility of this system with a simulation of a magnitude 7 quake, and with real data from the 2011 magnitude 9 Tohoku-oki earthquake in Japan. The results show that crowd-sourced warning systems were effective with only a tiny percentage of people in a given area, who were contributing information from their smartphones. Besides, the current system cannot detect an earthquake which is less than 7 in magnitude because the sensors will not be able to pick up small signals from the ground.
The study’s co-author Susan Owen from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory said, “Crowd-sourced data are less precise, but for larger earthquakes that cause large shifts in the ground surface, they contain enough information to detect that an earthquake has occurred – information that is necessary for early warning.”