Greece and New Zealand have today become the first countries to get access to a Google technology that turns Android phones into a network of earthquake detectors which deliver automated early warnings.
Building on the safety mechanisms of its OS, Google introduced an Android Earthquake Alerts System last summer in partnership with the United States Geological Survey.
On an individual level, Google’s alert system essentially turns your phone into a mini seismometer. But, more broadly speaking, it can create a network of shockwave-detecting devices, using a crowdsourced approach to work out if an earthquake is happening, where it is and its magnitude.
The system works by sending seismic movement info (sensed by your phone’s accelerometer) and rough location data to Google’s earthquake detection servers.
In New Zealand and Greece, this information will be used to send early warning alerts to Android users. Google can also display this info in search results for “earthquake” or “earthquake near me.”
Launched in California, the feature has since been rolled out to Oregon and is heading to Washington in May.