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How Google sends earthquake warnings before they happen

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There was a 5.7 magnitude earthquake that happened in Occidental Mindoro last September 27 at 1 AM, which was also felt all over Luzon.

But few minutes before the quake even happened, Android users shared that they already received notifications warning them of what’s about to happen. The question is, how Google did that?

No, it’s not fortune-telling or any supernatural of sorts. Instead, Google actually uses tons of data. In a Google blog post from August last year, the tech giant announced that they teamed up with the United States Geological Survey (USGS) and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES) to conduct pilot testing of earthquake alerts to Android devices.

Google explained that all smartphones are rigged with accelerometers that can sense signals that could tell if an earthquake is happening. Once a device detects a possible earthquake, it sends a ping to an earthquake detection server together with the device’s location. The server then collates all information coming from different phones to confirm if an earthquake is indeed happening in a certain location.

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This means that your smartphone actually becomes a seismometer, a machine used to detect earthquakes and how strong it is.

“We’re essentially racing the speed of light (which is roughly the speed at which signals from phone travel) against the speed of an earthquake. And lucky for us, the speed of light is much faster!”

Google Blog Post

Sadly, the feature is not available on Apple devices just yet.

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