With A Little Creative Ingenuity and Code, Smartphones Become Powerful Sensors

by | Jan 12, 2017 | Cool Stuff

Imagine sitting down to eat dinner and the table begins to shake. You can hear the glass in the kitchen clinking together. Then, your chair starts to shake and you know exactly what’s happening: an earthquake. Now, imagine before the shaking begins, your phone starts going off with an alert about an earthquake heading your way.

While we can’t currently predict when and where an earthquake is going to take place, scientists are one step closer to giving people a few seconds (and hopefully minutes) of warning. By combining some creative ingenuity with coding, scientists are turning smartphones into pocket-sized seismometers.

Creating a Citizen Science Network

The scientists and researchers behind MyShake, an Android app, are on a mission to give people a warning when earthquakes happen. Currently, the app has recorded quakes all over the world with as small of a magnitude as 2.5. The most surprising part of the entire program has been the number of tremors detected in Oklahoma, a state not traditionally known for its seismic activity.

How The App Works

The MyShake app works like many health and fitness apps on the market today by running in the background. Much like how those apps monitor the user’s fitness activity, like the number of steps walked in a day, the MyShake app has an algorithm designed to distinguish between human motions and specific earthquake movements.

When these earthquake movements are detected, the app sends a message to a central hub that calculates the location and size of the quake. The best part of the app is that the more people who use it, the more accurate and detailed the information will become.

Pushing Notifications to Users

The app is performing better than the designers thought it would and they are picking up more data and information than they hoped. The app has recorded small and large earthquakes and quakes as deep as 350 kilometers. All of the data will go to help scientists better understand earthquakes, causes, effects, and help in predictive analysis.

The ultimate goal of the MyShake App is to use it as a detection device. The app will send push notifications to give users a warning when an earthquake is happening nearby. When the network is dense, the phones closest to the center of the quake will sense the shaking and send a warning of the oncoming quake to users further out.

What We Can Learn From The MyShake App

The MyShake App is the perfect combination of creativity and science. The creators of the app had to bridge their understanding of coding, science, and creativity in order to deliver a mobile app that people would download. Plus, the app had to be functional enough to distinguish regular movement from earthquake movement. That’s a pretty impressive feat in our book!

Bring The Same Skills To Your Classroom

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