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Google launches earthquake alert system for Android users in India

Technology giant Google on Wednesday launched an earthquake alert system in India that can help people with Android smartphones run to safety when the quake begins.

Earthquakes are one of the most common natural disasters in the world, and an early warning can be pivotal in helping people prepare and get themselves and their loved ones to safety.

The system, introduced in consultation with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the National Seismology Center (NSC) in India, uses sensors in Android smartphones to detect and estimate earthquakes.

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Each Android smartphone is equipped with tiny accelerometers that can act as mini seismometers. When a phone is plugged in and charged, it can detect the very beginnings of earthquakes. Google sends two types of alerts: Be Aware and Take Action.

The “Be Aware” alerts are sent to users exercising MMI 3 & 4 shaking during an earthquake of magnitude 4.5 or greater. It just shows an alert on the screen and doesn’t play any sound if your phone is on Do Not Disturb mode or in silent mode.

The alerts are sent to users experiencing MMI 5+ shaking during an earthquake of 4.5 magnitude. In this case, the alert will bypass the system’s notification settings, including Do No Disturb and play a loud sound.

“If many phones detect earthquake-like tremors around the same time, our server can use this information to estimate that an earthquake may be happening, as well as characteristics of the event — like its epicenter and magnitude. Then, our server can send alerts to nearby phones,” Micah Berman, Product Manager, Android Safety at Google, wrote in a blog post.

“Internet signals travel at the speed of light, much faster than the propagation of earthquake shaking through the ground, so the alerts often reach phones several seconds before severe shaking does,” he added.

The feature, already deployed in many countries around the world, will be rolled out to all Android 5+ users in India in the coming week. The alerts are designed to be easy to read and follow and are available in Indian languages supported by Android.

To receive alerts, users must have Wi-Fi and/or cellular data connectivity, and both Android earthquake alerts and location settings enabled. Users who do not wish to receive these alerts can turn off earthquake alerts in device settings.

The system also provides information through Google Search about local seismic events and safety measures when people search for information with queries like “Earthquake near me.”



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