Google’s Android earthquake alerts go live in two new countries


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Android’s earthquake warning system is spreading beyond the United States for the first time, bringing both detection and warnings using Android smartphones for potentially dangerous earthquakes. The expansion will begin in Greece and New Zealand, according to Google, which currently have no early warning system.

The Android earthquake warning system was launched last year, with Google working with the United States Geological Survey (USGS). It relies on accelerometers common in Android smartphones to track seismic waves: If the phone thinks the shaking it records could be from an earthquake, this data is transmitted to Google’s servers with a record of the location of the phone at that time.

Obviously, it takes more than one of these reports to confirm an earthquake. Google is pulling together data from multiple phones to determine if there really is an earthquake, and if so, where and how big it could be. If you search for “Earthquake near me,” the service will display the information calculated by Google, while in the United States it is also transmitted to the third-party service ShakeAlert.

It is ShakeAlert who is responsible for sending notifications, initially launching the service in California. Availability recently expanded to Oregon, and this May Washington residents will also be able to register. For Greece and New Zealand, however, Google has taken a different route.

Instead of a third-party partner, Android itself will be responsible for warning notifications. This is the first time that the operating system has handled both detection and alerts, according to Google, Android users will automatically receive early warning alerts of an earthquake in their area, although ‘they can turn it off in the device settings if they prefer not to. see them.

While these warnings may not be a prediction of earthquakes in the distant future, Google says studies suggest that even just a few seconds can make a difference in how well you cope with an incident. Indeed, more than half of injuries can apparently be avoided, if early warnings are taken into account.

Some earthquake-prone locations already have high-resolution sensors installed, which track the quakes and issue alerts accordingly. However, they are expensive and complex, and while common in California, not all states or countries benefit from the same. By harnessing the existing sensors in Android phones, Google argues that, along with the mass market diffusion of these devices, it can offer a participatory alternative to dedicated hardware.

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