Countries like Japan, Mexico, and California already use land-based sensors to provide warnings, scaling down the damage to property and injuries to people by keeping people away from the epicentre of the earthquake before the earthquakes even starts.
If Google's method for detecting and alerting earthquakes prove effective, warnings would reach more people around the world. Seismology experts have been consulted by Google and they’ve marked this step by Google as a major advancement.
"We are on a path to delivering earthquake alerts wherever there are smartphones," said Richard Allen, director of University of California Berkeley's seismological lab and visiting faculty at Google over the last year.
Google had run the test on this program for almost 4.5 years to verify if the accelerometers in phones could detect the crashes of vehicles, earthquakes, and tornados, stated principal software engineers Marc Stogaitis.
If phones detect an earthquake, they send their city-level location to Google, which can triangulate the epicentre and estimate the magnitude with as few as several hundred reports, Stogaitis said.
This new feature will first be made available on android devices in California, where Google has collaborated with United States Geological Survey (USGS) and California Governor's Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) to send earthquake alerts via ShakeAlert.
This earthquake detection system will not be functional in China since the country has blocked Google’s Play Services there.
It is expected by Google to be delivering its first alert in the next year. Google is also planning on aiding the businesses with free service, which want their elevators to automatically shut down during earthquakes, which is similar to notifications regarding kidnap or flood.
According to Google, people who experience strong shaking would hear a loud dinging and see full-screen advisement to drop, cover and hold on, Stogaitis said. People further away would get a minor notification, while people closer would be warned about post-quake safety, such as checking gas valves.
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