Several Android smartphone users were alerted before a moderate earthquake struck California, thanks to the built-in quake detection functionality of Android devices that has been around since 2020. According to Google’s Vice President of Engineering for Android, Dave Burke, the earthquake detection functionality was put to test during a 5.1 quake near San Jose, California and loads of Android smartphones detected the earthquake before it struck.
Google’s earthquake detection ability essentially turns Android smartphones into seismometers.
“Earthquake in SF Bay Area today. Yellow/red represents shaking Android phones acting as seismometers. Circles are our inferred estimate of P & S waves. Earthquake alerts sent instantaneously to surrounding phones before the waves hit,” Burke tweeted and also posted a visualisation of Android smartphones lighting up to give a heads-up of the earthquake.
Earthquake in SF Bay Area today. Yellow/red represents shaking Android phones acting as seismometers. Circles are our inferred estimate of P & S waves. Earthquake alerts sent instantaneously to surrounding phones before the waves hit pic.twitter.com/8pumt19ReI
— Dave Burke (@davey_burke) October 26, 2022
Many Android smartphone users posted on social media that they received earthquake notifications on their Android phones five to 10 seconds before they felt the shock waves. Even though the warning came in only a few seconds before the earthquake, but it can make a difference in giving users time to drop, cover and hold on before the shaking arrives.
Earthquake detection and early alerts for Android phones was launched by Google in August 2020. Google collaborated with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) to send earthquake alerts, powered by ShakeAlert app, directly to Android devices in California.
Developed by some of the leading seismologists, the ShakeAlert system uses signals from more than 700 seismometers installed by USGS, Cal OES, the University of California Berkeley, and the California Institute of Technology.