UC Berkeley launches app to further study earthquakes

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In hopes of creating an earthquake early warning system, UC Berkeley launched an app to help further study earthquakes with cellphones. (KGO-TV)

UC Berkeley has launched an app that makes your cellphone an earthquake sensor. It could eventually be part of an early warning system.

If I'm close to an epicenter, my cellphone could record the waves of an earthquake as it is happening. Then it will send the data back to UC Berkeley which then could be sent out to people miles away, warning them earthquake waves are heading their way.

Developers are excited about the potential the technology has to save lives and say you can easily help their efforts.

Designed in California and downloaded across the world, developers of the MyShake app eagerly await data from earthquakes.

VIDEO: USGS scientists say early warning earthquake system worked
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The technology to provide an earthquake early warning system worked on Sunday, giving 10 seconds notice.

"So we're a little bit jittery now too," Louis Schreier joked.

Schreier is part of the Deutsche Telekom team working with UC Berkeley's seismological lab to turn your mobile phone into a quake sensor.

A video about the app Richard Allen, the director of UC Berkeley seismological laboratory, explains how it works. It says, "The accelerometer in the phone will record the ground shaking, send that data to our system, we can use that data to understand the physics of the process beneath us, how the buildings around us respond to these earthquakes. And we will have more data than we have from traditional seismic networks."

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A $3.6 million grant was awarded to scientists working to advance an earthquake early-warning system that could save hundreds if not thousands of lives on the West Coast.

"The value is that where in the USGS I might have 1,000 sensors, here in California alone, there may be 16 million smartphones," Schreier said.

Data sent to Berkeley's lab and will be compared to official USGS seismic readings. Once it's been thoroughly tested and deemed, accurate the app could evolve into an early warning system, especially important technology for places like Nepal.

"It's not just dollars and cents, here an alert could save lives and so it becomes vital for someone in a country for which there is no early warning system," Schreier said.

The MyShake app is free to download for Android users. It's not yet available on the Apple store. Click here to find out more about this app.
Related Topics:
sciencetechnologysmartphonescellphoneappmobile appUSGSearthquakestudyUC BerkeleyBerkeleyMountain View
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