Google adapts NZ earthquake alert system to help Ukraine refugees

Google is adapting its early warning earthquake system used in New Zealand to alert Ukrainians to air raids, the company has said.

The system has been in place here since May last year and in October alerted Kiwis with Android phones of the 5.3 magnitude earthquake that shook the lower North Island.

"Tragically, millions of people in Ukraine now rely on air strike alerts to try to get to safety," the company wrote on its blog.

"At the request, and with the help, of the government of Ukraine, we've started rolling out a rapid Air Raid Alerts system for Android phones in Ukraine.

"This work is supplemental to the country's existing air raid alert systems, and based on alerts already being delivered by the Ukrainian government."

Thankfully, the company already had something it could adapt for such purposes.

"The system leverages our low latency alert mechanism we built for earthquake alerts," Dave Burke, the vice president of engineering at Google for Android tweeted.

"The system starts rolling out today and will ramp up to target all Android phones in Ukraine over the next few days."

The search giant also detailed a number of other measures it has just taken to protest at Vladimir Putin's invasion in the blog.

That includes pausing the "vast majority" of its commercial activities in Russia, including banning ads for all Russian-based advertisers, halting the payments functionality for most of its services, stopping new Cloud sign ups and cutting monetisation options on YouTube.

"To help the increasing number of refugees in the region, we are developing ways for businesses to flag if they are providing services to refugees," the company continued.

"We have all seen the pictures of the unfolding humanitarian and refugee disaster in Ukraine.

"Beginning today, hotel owners in countries neighbouring Ukraine can indicate on their Business Profile whether they're offering free or discounted accommodations for refugees."

Local businesses will also be able to post to their business profiles on search and maps to offer aid and services to refugees.

"As we compile this information over the coming weeks, we'll make it possible for people to quickly find these places on Search and Maps."

Recent reports say that over two million people have now left Ukraine as refugees since Russia invaded on February 25.

Tech companies, including Facebook, Apple, Netflix, Sony, TikTok and more have all either halted or limited their services in the country, with virtually world-wide condemnation of Putin's actions.