New Zealand Android users getting trial Google earthquake alerts

Google has introduced the the Android Earthquake Alerts System in New Zealand.
Photo credit: Google / Newshub.

New Zealand is among the first countries in the world to get access to technology that turns Android smartphones into a network of earthquake detectors.

The Google trial will have phones detect seismic waves that indicate an earthquake may be happening using their built-in accelerometers and send a signal, including a rough location, to a central server.

The server then uses other phones to figure out if an earthquake is actually happening, where it is and its magnitude.

"Android users will receive automatic early warning alerts when there is an earthquake in their area," wrote Boone Spooner, an Android Product Manager, in a company blog post.

"Through this system, we hope to provide people with the advance notice they need to stay safe."

The Android Earthquake Alerts System is being rolled out in Aotearoa and Greece, having only been previously available in parts of the US.

GeoNet, a partnership between the Earthquake Commission, GNS Science and Land Information New Zealand, reports between 50 and 80 earthquakes a day, or around 20,000 per year in New Zealand.

A report on Stuff says the system will be triggered by quakes of magnitude of 4.5 or greater and in more dangerous quakes will alert users even when the phone is switched off.

The system is separate to the National Emergency Management Agency system which has alerted Kiwis to COVID-19 lockdowns as well as tsunamis and earthquakes through their mobile phones.

Users who do not wish to receive the automated Android alerts can turn this off in device settings.

There is currently no comparable system for Apple iPhone users.