A new study has shown that smartphones can be used to create an earthquake early warning system, providing an inexpensive option for many countries.
Early warnings can mean the difference between life and death when an earthquake strikes. Many wealthier nations have invested in expensive early warning system. For many developing countries, however, such systems are out of reach.
Ben Brooks, of the U.S. Geological Survey, presented the results of a study before the Seismological Society of America (SSA)’s 2021 Annual Meeting. According to the study, a network of 80 cellphones were used to detect earthquakes, and the results compared against a scientific-grade system.
According to ScienceDaily, the ASTUTI (Alerta Sismica Temprana Utilizando Teléfonos Inteligentes) network detected and alerted on 5 of 13 noticeable earthquakes in Costa Rica. The smartphones were attached to baseboards, with their accelerometers detecting the earthquake-induced shaking.
“The performance level over the six months is encouraging,” Brooks said. “Cascadia events in the Pacific Northwest are similar to the Costa Rican subduction zone, and latencies for ShakeAlert in Cascadia are about 10 seconds, so it’s comparable.”
Brooks believes ASTUTI could be valuable to countries across the wealth spectrum.
“I would imagine that would be attractive for countries with less resources to dedicate to earthquake early warning” Brooks said, “but the performance is also at a level that I imagine would interest even wealthier countries.”
The entire report is well-worth a read, and demonstrates another innovative way smartphones can be put to use.