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Quake-Detection App Captured Nearly 400 Temblors Worldwide

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The June 10 earthquake near Borrego Springs in San Diego County, a 5.2-magnitude temblor, triggered 103 smartphones with MyShake installed (green dots).

The University of California, Berkeleys global network of smartphone earthquake detectors has recorded nearly 400 earthquakes since the MyShake app was made available for download in February.

Credit: Berkeley News

The MyShake app has recorded nearly 400 earthquakes since it was made available for download in February.

The app harnesses a smartphone's motion detectors to measure earthquake ground motion, then sends the data back to the Berkeley Seismological Laboratory for analysis. The smartphone accelerometers and the density of phones in many places are sufficient to provide data quickly enough for early warning.

University of California, Berkeley professor Richard Allen, graduate student Qingkai Kong, and a team at the Silicon Valley Innovation Center in Mountain View, CA, developed the MyShake app and the algorithm behind it. The team believes the app's performance shows it can complement traditional seismic networks.

Nearly 220,000 people have downloaded the app so far, and an average of between 8,000 and 10,000 phones are always turned on and ready to respond. An updated version of the app, which provides an option for push notifications of recent quakes within a distance determined by the user, was made available for download this week.

"The notifications will not be fast initially--not fast enough for early warning--but it puts into place the technology to deliver the alerts and we can then work toward making them faster and faster as we improve our real-time detection system within MyShake," Allen says.

From Berkeley News
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