Google is aiming to add a new feature to its smartphones, and this one could save lives.
Android phones on Tuesday began detecting earthquakes around the world to provide data that could eventually give billions of users precious seconds of warning.
It works through what are called accelerometers, tiny built-in sensors that measure direction and force of motion that are mainly used to determine whether a phone is in landscape or portrait mode.
But they can also sense earthquakes when the phone is plugged in and stationary.
Alerts would trigger for earthquakes magnitude 4.5 or greater and give some users up to a minute of notice.
Marc Stogaitis is principle software engineer at Google.
“As an earthquake starts to propagate, the phones that are close to the epicenter feel shaking and send a signal to the Google earthquake detection server along with a course location of where shaking is happening. We then aggregate data from many phones to determine if an earthquake is happening and how big it is."
People expected to experience strong shaking would hear a loud dinging and see a full-screen warning to drop, cover and hold on. Those further away would get a smaller notification designed not to stir them from their sleep.
Google – which itself is located near California’s San Andreas fault – expects to issue its first alerts next year, beginning in California.