Distributed earthquake monitoring using laptop accelerometers

laptopNPRquakecatcher

This is a kind of brilliant idea, since current trends of laptops manufactured with accelerometer sensors. And this would be a large peer-to-peer earthquake warning system. Sounds like SETI@home, but for collecting data instead of processing it. From NPR.org:

Newer models of laptops manufactured by companies like Apple and Lenovo contain accelerometers — motion sensors meant to detect whether the computer has been dropped. If the computer falls, the hard drive will automatically switch off to protect the user’s data.

“As soon as I knew there were these low-cost sensors inside these accelerometers, I thought it would be perfect to use them to network together and actually record earthquakes,” says geoscientist Elizabeth Cochran of the University of California, Riverside.

So a few years ago, Cochran got in touch with Jesse Lawrence, a colleague at Stanford. They whipped up a program called the Quake-Catcher Network. It’s a free download that runs silently in the background, collecting data from the computer’s accelerometer and waiting to detect an earthquake.

Laptop accelerometers aren’t as sensitive as professional-grade seismometers, so they can only pick up tremors of about magnitude 4.0 and above. But when a laptop does sense a tremor, it’ll ping the researchers’ server. “And when our server receives a bunch of those, we then say, ‘This is a likely earthquake,’ ” Lawrence says.

No accelerometer sensor but still want to participate? That won’t be any problem since you can purchase a USB sensor for use on your desktop computers. A lot of these, reportedly, are being installed in public schools.

Courtesy: Make

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6 Responses to “Distributed earthquake monitoring using laptop accelerometers”

  1. […] of California at Riverside and Stanford University created the Quake Catcher Network in 2008. The idea was to use the accelerometers in laptops to detect movement. But wading through mounds of data from laptops to accurately point to information that might […]

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