FFE Magazine

Earthquake alert app now in the Works

Researchers from the University of California (UC) showed off a new earthquake alert app that could be available by next year.


At the World Science Forum in Rio de Janeiro, UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory director and team leader professor Richard Allen explained that the app is based on an early warning system being developed in California. With the app, the smartphone user can be notified of an impending earthquake between a few seconds to a minute before it hits depending on that user’s distance from the epicentre or source of the quake.

A man holding an iPhone 4


The app is designed to capture the so-called primary wave (P-wave) of an earthquake, the initial energy that rarely does damage. The app then uses a formula to measure the strength of the quake, when it will reach its peak and potential area of effect. Regional seismic monitoring networks will provide data needed to do this measurement.


The professor explained that users who are at the actual epicentre will not receive the warning. But their phones will alert others in the network. ‘All we need is a telephone at the epicentre of the quake which detects it and sends the information (saying) “I felt a jolt, I am in this place” to a server.


‘There are many phones simultaneously doing this to enable the server to determine the site and magnitude of the quake to send people further away a warning. These warnings include (information on) how much time to the start of the tremor and also its intensity.’


Users who are a few kilometres away will be able to get this information in the network. This will allow them to seek out shelter ahead of time.

The software taps on the interconnectivity among the one billion smartphone users around the globe to lessen the impact of disasters wherever and whenever it hits.




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