Google Maps has long used Android device data to determine the level of traffic that users may face. However, their most recent venture looks to provide an even more useful, and potentially even life-saving, service.
Specifically, Google looks to rollout what they call “the world’s largest earthquake-detection network.” As for how it would work, Google said that our smartphones are now sensitive enough to detect earthquakes, and that if you have a network of these detectors all working together, you can produce a very accurate map.
Interestingly, Marc Stogaitis, the principle Android software engineer at Google, stated “We figured out [Android phones are] sensitive enough to detect earthquake waves. As an earthquake wave goes through, they’re able to detect them and usually see both key types of waves, the P wave and the S wave,” adding: “Each phone is able to detect that something like an earthquake is happening, but then you need an aggregate of phones to know that for sure that it’s an earthquake happening.”
As for what this means to the average Joe, the P wave is the initial shockwave from the earthquake, while the S wave is the one that follows and is generally more destructive. Google plans to use the 2.3 billion eligible Android devices to sense the P wave and then send out warnings for the S wave before it occurs, or reaches a certain location.