Researchers have developed a smartphone application that could lead to faster, more accurate earthquake and tsunami warnings. Ben Gruber reports.
STORY: When an earthquake strikes literally every second counts. That was the case 5 years ago when a magnitude 9 quake unleashed a massive tsunami that devastated Japan. Since then scientists have been working to improve detection systems in the hopes of generating more accurate earthquake data and ultimately buying people a bit more time to flee a soon to be disaster zone. Now researchers are hoping to tap into new pool data. It turns out the technology in conventional seismological instrumentation exists in every smartphone on the planet. (SOUNDBITE) (English) RICHARD ALLEN, DIRECTOR OF SEISMOLOGICAL LABORATORY, UC BERKELEY, SAYING: "So the idea is if we can harness the accelerometers in those smart phones then we can collect massive amounts of data. It could really revolutionize how we understand earthquakes and earthquake effects." Richard Allen and his team have developed a smartphone app called 'MyShake' that is designed to monitor a phones accelerometer data. He says accelerometers in phones are nowhere near as sensitive as conventional instrumentation, but what they lack in sensitivity they make up for in numbers. Real time data from phones could equate to more warning time. (SOUNDBITE) (English) RICHARD ALLEN, DIRECTOR OF SEISMOLOGICAL LABORATORY, UC BERKELEY, SAYING: "So the amount of warning time we might be talking about depends of course on where you are relative to the earthquake. We are talking about seconds, tens of seconds, best case scenario is a few minutes before and earthquake, tens of minutes potentially for tsunamis." Allen says that many of the regions most prone to deadly earthquakes and tsunami don't have reliable early warning systems. In those places, he says, this new source of data could prove to be a game changer. (SOUNDBITE) (English) RICHARD ALLEN, DIRECTOR OF SEISMOLOGICAL LABORATORY, UC BERKELEY, SAYING: "There is no seismic instrumentation but there are many many smartphones often so if we can harness the smartphones we can provide some sort of warning in those countries." The app can be downloaded the Labs website at myshake.berkeley.edu