On Tuesday, a significant earthquake with a magnitude of 6.2 on the Richter Scale struck parts of northern India, including the Delhi-NCR region, originating from Nepal. Notably, this event occurred shortly after Google had launched its Android Earthquake Alerts service in the country.
However, reports emerged that the system failed to deliver the expected alerts to Android smartphone users before the tremors hit, prompting questions about its effectiveness.
Why Did the System Not Work?
Google introduced the Android Earthquake Alerts service in India on September 27. In the announcement, Google noted that the feature would be gradually rolled out to all Android 5+ users in the country during the coming week. This suggests that the functionality may not have been available to the majority of Android users in India at the time of the earthquake.
How Does Google’s Android Earthquake Alert Work?
The Android Earthquake Alert system relies on the built-in accelerometers found in Android smartphones, which can function as miniature seismometers. When a phone is plugged in and charging, it has the capability to detect the initial signs of an earthquake. If multiple phones detect seismic activity simultaneously, the system uses this data to estimate the occurrence of an earthquake, including determining its epicenter and magnitude.
Subsequently, advance warnings are sent to nearby Android devices, with the added feature of providing notifications in local languages for the India launch.
Limitations and Requirements
It’s important to note that the system comes with certain limitations, such as its inability to detect all earthquakes and the possibility of errors in estimating magnitude and shaking intensity. To use this feature, users must have access to Wi-Fi or cellular data connectivity, with both Android Earthquake Alerts and location settings enabled. Users also have the option to opt out of receiving these alerts if they so choose.
The recent incident has raised questions about the effectiveness and accessibility of Google’s Android Earthquake Alerts in regions prone to seismic activity, highlighting the need for robust and reliable early warning systems to ensure public safety.