Smartphones could be used to detect earthquakes

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South Africa may not have a lot of seismic trouble but the rest of the world could do with some more effective earthquake sensors. Smartphones may just be the answer to that, according to scientists who published a recent report in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.

The current generation of smartphones, says the report, feature MEMS accelerometers which are capable of detecting earthquakes of magnitude 5 or higher, provided they are fairly close to the epicenter of the seismic event. Getting caught in a magnitude 9 earthquake isn’t anybody’s idea of a barrel of laughs but the scientists involved in the concept have envisioned a model where smartphones are used to pass data to researchers.

Whether smartphones could function as an early warning system isn’t clear but they could certainly be used to gather information over a far wider area in an earthquake and at very low cost to researchers. The accelerometers used in smartphones do require a little extra sensitivity before they can actually meet geologist’s expectations in this line but one researcher, speaking to The Verge, has said that “…right from the start, this technology seemed to have all the requirements for monitoring earthquakes — especially in extreme environments, like volcanoes or underwater sites.”

The day may just be coming where we can say: “Earthquakes? There’s an app for that.”

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