Google has announced a new alert system for Android smartphones in India to deliver early warnings in the event of an earthquake. The Android Earthquake Alerts System utilises sensors present on Android smartphones to detect earthquakes and estimate their severity. Google said that the feature already exists in some other countries around the world and will now roll out in India. The earthquake alert system on Android has been designed in consultation with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the National Centre for Seismology (NCS), Google said.
In its blog, the search engine giant said that it is providing an automated early warning alerts to Indian Android users in the case of an earthquake in their area. The earthquake alert system will leverage the accelerometer present inside smartphones and use them as “mini seismometers.”
“When a phone is plugged in and charging, it can detect the very beginnings of earthquake shaking. If many phones detect earthquake-like shaking around the same time, our server can use this information to estimate that an earthquake may be happening, as well as characteristics of the event – like its epicenter and magnitude,” Google said in its blog post on Wednesday.
Google’s servers would then push out alerts to phones in the area. And since Internet signals travel much faster than earthquakes, users would get quick alerts on their phones before severe shaking would begin, Google said. The company also confirmed that the earthquake alerts would be available in Indian languages supported by Android.
The tech giant further elaborated on its earthquake alert system on its crisis response page. “This approach uses the 2+billion Android phones in use around the world as mini-seismometers to create the world’s largest earthquake detection network; the phones detect the vibration and speed of shaking of an earthquake, and alert Android users in affected areas accordingly,” the company explained. Users can simply search “earthquake near me” on Google Search if they feel the ground shaking in their area to get additional information on the natural event.
Google sends out two different types of alerts in the event of an earthquake — the Be Aware alert and the Take Action alert. Both of these are only triggered in case of earthquakes of magnitude 4.5 or greater. The Be Aware alert, Google said, serves as a warning for light shaking and provides more information if you tap on the notification. This alert abides by the volume, Do Not Disturb (DND), and notification settings of the user’s phone. The Take Action alert, on the other hand, is meant to warn users before they experience moderate to heavy shaking. This alert ignores your DND settings, turns on your screen, and plays a loud noise to catch your attention.
To receive the alerts, users must have a smartphone that runs Android 5 or later with Wi-Fi or cellular data connectivity. Users should also enable both Android Earthquake Alerts and location settings on their smartphones. The new alert system is being rolled out to all eligible Android users this week.