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Scientists Hope to Use Smartphones as Earthquake Sensors


Collecting precise real-time data on earthquakes is a very difficult job for scientists, but things are going to be different sometime in the near future. Scientists appear to have found a better tool for sensing earthquakes: the accelerometers in today’s smartphones.

According to a new article in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, the MEMS accelerometers in smartphones are capable of detecting earthquakes of magnitude five or higher if they are located close to the epicenter. And since there are smartphones wherever you look, scientists say that we will be able to create an “urban seismic network” by using future handsets. This network will allow scientists to get real-time data on earthquakes whenever they take place.

What inspired the scientists to come with the new idea was Stanford’s Quake-Catcher Network, a network created by connecting seismographic equipment to volunteer computers. But the good thing about using smartphone accelerometers is that they are cheaper and can be carried easily to extreme places. Of course, we might need sensors which are more sensitive for using them to detect earthquakes, but the authors of the article believe that a smartphone accelerometer could be the best tool after improvements in technology.

According to one researcher, “right from the start, this technology seemed to have all the requirements for monitoring earthquakes — especially in extreme environments, like volcanoes or underwater sites”.

What are your thoughts about using a smartphone accelerometer as an earthquake detection tool? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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