© 2024 | Jefferson Public Radio
Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Blvd.
Ashland, OR 97520
541.552.6301 | 800.782.6191
Listen | Discover | Engage a service of Southern Oregon University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

How Can Smartphones Be Used To Warn Of Earthquakes?

Ben Brooks

Researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey are trying to figure out whether smartphones might be used to give earthquake warnings.

People standing above the epicenter of a large earthquake will feel the ground shaking before those on the periphery of the quake. The same can be said of their smartphones.

Ben Brooks with the USGS says if a computer was checking for simultaneous movement of a large number of smartphones, it could give people on the periphery of a quake a 10 or 20 second warning.

That's enough time to stop a surgeon from making a cut, he said.

"Or if you're a bullet train that would like to stop. Or if you'd like to automatically shut off gas valves. You can imagine all kinds of scenarios," Brooks said. "Or if your kids are trained at school, when they hear the sound to get under their desk - drop cover and hold on."

Simulations of earthquakes in California and Japan show data from about 5,000 phones would be enough to trigger a warning.

Researchers at CalTech have tried a similar system. But it didn't work because phone makers filtered GPS data. That means the earthquake movement was filtered and therefore didn't register.

Copyright 2015 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Kristian Foden-Vencil is a reporter and producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting. He specializes in health care, business, politics, law and public safety.