Research ArticleEARTH SCIENCES

MyShake: A smartphone seismic network for earthquake early warning and beyond

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Science Advances  12 Feb 2016:
Vol. 2, no. 2, e1501055
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1501055

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Large magnitude earthquakes in urban environments continue to kill and injure tens to hundreds of thousands of people, inflicting lasting societal and economic disasters. Earthquake early warning (EEW) provides seconds to minutes of warning, allowing people to move to safe zones and automated slowdown and shutdown of transit and other machinery. The handful of EEW systems operating around the world use traditional seismic and geodetic networks that exist only in a few nations. Smartphones are much more prevalent than traditional networks and contain accelerometers that can also be used to detect earthquakes. We report on the development of a new type of seismic system, MyShake, that harnesses personal/private smartphone sensors to collect data and analyze earthquakes. We show that smartphones can record magnitude 5 earthquakes at distances of 10 km or less and develop an on-phone detection capability to separate earthquakes from other everyday shakes. Our proof-of-concept system then collects earthquake data at a central site where a network detection algorithm confirms that an earthquake is under way and estimates the location and magnitude in real time. This information can then be used to issue an alert of forthcoming ground shaking. MyShake could be used to enhance EEW in regions with traditional networks and could provide the only EEW capability in regions without. In addition, the seismic waveforms recorded could be used to deliver rapid microseism maps, study impacts on buildings, and possibly image shallow earth structure and earthquake rupture kinematics.

  • earthquake early warning
  • smartphone seismic networks
  • Crowdsourcing
  • citizen science

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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