Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Smartphone chips sense earthquakes, could speed up aid response

Smartphone chips sense earthquakes, could speed up aid response

The chip that tells your smartphone which way is up has been used to detect earthquake-scale forces accurately. If further testing proves successful, smartphones could be turned into a network of seismometers that together tell emergency services where to respond first.

The testing was done by a pair of seismologists from the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology, Antonino D'Alessandro and Giuseppe D'Anna, who initially put forward the proposal in April 2013 in a paper entitled "Can mobile phones be used in strong motion seismology?" and have now published their results in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America. 

The chip in question is the Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) accelerometer, commonly found today in smartphones and laptops. In the former it flips the home screen the right way round by measuring movement across three axes. For the experiments, the LIS331DLH chip was used, found in both the iPhone 4 and iPhone 5. Using readings from the EpiSensor FBA ES-T seismometer as a point of reference, D'Alessandro and D'Anna set the phone sensor on a vibrating table (typically used in seismology studies). 

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