Without downloading an app, millions of Californians and even tourists will automatically receive early earthquake alerts on their Android cellphones under a deal announced Tuesday by Google and the state.
By tapping into the existing statewide warning system, Google says Android smartphones can now detect earthquakes and give people early warnings and precious seconds to prepare for the notorious Golden State tremors. The Silicon Valley giant says California’s premier network is the perfect test site for a program it plans to expand in the United States.
“Early warnings can help people prepare for a tremor, but the public infrastructure to detect and alert everyone to an earthquake is expensive to build and deploy,” the California-based company said in a statement. “We saw an opportunity to use Android to provide people with useful and timely information about earthquakes when performing research, as well as a few seconds warning to get themselves and their loved ones to safety,” if necessary.”
Developed by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, the California Institute of Technology and the US Geological Survey, California launched its system last year on the 30th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake that rocked the San Francisco Bay in 1989.
The long-awaited system relies on a network of 700 ground motion sensors across the state and is the first statewide early warning system for earthquakes. Officials, including Gov. Gavin Newsom, have touted the system as a major scientific breakthrough and a potential lifeline.
Inspired by systems that have been in place for decades in countries like Mexico and Japan, the California version is designed to send early alerts to anyone with the MyShake app close enough to feel a 4.5 magnitude earthquake. or more. But as part of the deal announced on Tuesday, installing the app will no longer be necessary for Android users in the country’s most populous state.
While Newsom said the MyShake app has been downloaded more than a million times since its launch 10 months ago, he praised Google’s decision to expand the scope of the early warning system.
“It’s not every day that Silicon Valley looks to the state government for cutting edge innovation, but that’s exactly what’s happening today,” Newsom said of the agreement. “This announcement means that California’s world-class Earthquake Early Warning System will be a standard feature on all Android phones – giving millions of precious seconds to drop, cover and hold when the biggest. occurs. “
Google says the advancement is part of its plan to create the “world’s largest earthquake detection network” through crowdsourcing.
According to its announcement, standard Android devices with accelerometers outside of California will send signals and location to the nearest earthquake detection server. The server will then evaluate messages sent by other androids to determine if an earthquake has actually occurred. If so, the information will be immediately available on a Google search with tips for surviving an earthquake.
“We’re basically running the speed of light (which is roughly the speed at which signals from a phone travel) against the speed of an earthquake. And luckily for us, the speed of light is much faster! The company said.
The feature will be included on every Google Play Android cell phone running version 5.0 and can be disabled by users. Ars Technica, an outlet for tech news and product reviews, estimates that more than 2 billion Android Google Play devices could use earthquake detection software.
The early warning agreement comes as experts warn of the increased likelihood of the next major earthquake in California.
Last month, a study published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America said that a series of 2019 earthquakes in the Mojave Desert had increased the chances of a magnitude of 7.5 or greater by 100-fold. over the next year, from 0.023% to 2.3%.
“The best case scenario is that the earthquake starts a long way off and occurs slowly, giving you maximum time to prepare,” said Ross Stein, assistant professor of geophysics at Stanford University who worked on study. “Earthquake early warnings, if successful, have the chance to save lives, which is why this is a particularly useful situation to consider.”
From California, Google says its earthquake warning capability will be extended to Androids in other states and countries over the next year.
– By Nick Cahill, CNS