Until recently, information on earthquakes came mainly from seismographs. These devices measure the earth’s vibrations. The more seismographs there are in an area, the more detailed the information for researchers. At UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory in California, an area where earthquakes are a regular phenomenon, researchers wondered if they couldn’t deploy smartphones for this purpose. After all, they are on location in large numbers.
MyShake uses the phone’s sensors to detect vibrations in the soil. It works best when the device lies on a table. The data is sent to the researchers, who use the recorded measurements to improve their understanding of earthquakes. In the future, the Berkeley seismologists also want to use the app to issue warnings. MyShake should then learn to recognise the vibrations that are a precursor for an earthquake and issue an alarm as soon as these are detected.