Google has just announced a major upgrade to Android: The Android Earthquake Alerts System.
Google’s new feature is made up of two different parts. For users in California, Android users will receive notifications from the ShakeAlert detection system. The goal is to give people as much notice as possible of an impending quake.
At the same time, however, Google realized that not all parts of the world have a system like ShakeAlert. Therefore, Google has worked to make every Android phone a mini seismometer.
“All smartphones come with tiny accelerometers that can sense signals that indicate an earthquake might be happening,” writers Marc Stogaitis, Principal Software Engineer, Android. “If the phone detects something that it thinks may be an earthquake, it sends a signal to our earthquake detection server, along with a coarse location of where the shaking occurred. The server then combines information from many phones to figure out if an earthquake is happening. We’re essentially racing the speed of light (which is roughly the speed at which signals from a phone travel) against the speed of an earthquake. And lucky for us, the speed of light is much faster!”
Google’s new feature is an innovative way to use modern cell phones and will likely help save lives.