Smartphones alert Sundar Pichai, others about Earthquake that struck US city

The platform has been developed at the University of Berkeley and is now available in three states, including Washington.

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Wednesday, October 26, 2022, 11:24 AM IST
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Representational image | Pixabay

No amount of drills can prepare people for an earthquake when the ground beneath their feet suddenly starts shaking and leaves them confused about taking shelter or running outside the house. But if people can be alerted just minutes before a disaster strikes, it can help many of them respond more effectively and follow instructions with more composure. An app developed by researchers at the University of Berkeley was able to pull that off by warning Californians about the South Bay earthquake.

Berkeley gets to test out its app

Smartphone users with the Android platform MyShake were alerted second before a 5.1 earthquake hit California, preparing them to a certain extent. At the time, a professor at Berkeley had given an exam to his class studying earthquakes and was interrupted by phones sending alerts midway. All the devices had the app, and the notifications came 2 seconds before they felt light tremors, since the quake had hit at a distance in San Jose.

Google’s Dieter Bohn and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai were also among those Califonians who got an early warning of the quake.

Using sensors and the crowd as a resource

The platform delivers predictions based on traditional seismic networks coupled with an artificial neural system that sends alerts, along with information on the condition of roads and buildings in the aftermath. MyShake, already available on Google’s app marketplace, turns people into both users as well as seismologists, by crowdsourcing inputs. The experts behind it are now working on delivering alerts earlier, so that people at least get a few minutes to take shelter and ensure safety.

The data is sourced from ShakeAlert, which the US Geological Survey uses to track earthquakes with motion sensors in three states. After California and Oregon, the MyShake app has also been introduced in Washington state this year. So far the app has been funded by the California Governer’s Office of Emergency Services.

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