Message alert! There’s an earthquake coming / ¡Mensaje de alerta! Habrá un terremoto

Technology, especially the Smartphone, is changing the way we operate in the world. Now our little handheld devices may be about to monitor the physical movements of that very world: in the near future they could help predict imminent earthquakes by using GPS (Global Positioning System) technology.

La tecnología, en especial los teléfonos inteligentes, están cambiando la forma en que opera el mundo. Ahora, nuestros pequeños dispositivos móviles pueden estar cerca de monitorear los movimientos físicos del mundo: en un futuro cercano podrán ayudar a predecir terremotos inminentes usando la tecnología GPS (Sistema de Posicionamiento Global).

Technology, especially the Smartphone, is changing the way we operate in the world. Now our little handheld devices may be about to monitor the physical movements of that very world: in the near future they could help predict imminent earthquakes by using GPS (Global Positioning System) technology.

A pilot project in the US found that the GPS sensors in phones can determine the location and magnitude of an earthquake from the amount of surface movement. The phones can then be programmed to send out a warning. It's a case of 'strength in numbers'; the more devices able to do this, the more accurate the warning will be. For example, if the GPS receivers of just a few phones vibrate to indicate earth movement, that's probably not an earthquake. However if a few thousand phones move, then it probably does signal that an earthquake is happening.

Until now, all the tests on the system have been on simulations and not real earthquakes. However researchers plan to trial it for real in Chile soon. In order to do this, they must firstly hack the GPS data of phones in the chosen region. This is because at the moment Smartphone manufacturers do not make this data, essential for this detection system to work, publicly available. 

Another crucial feature is that at least a few hundred people need to be close to the earthquake's epicenter, so their phones can pick up the movement and send out alerts. But as our Smartphones get smarter, perhaps in time they can do the walking and talking without human help? It's safer that way!

Prepapred by: Jonathan Zur

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