In the event of an earthquake or an impending earthquake, your phone will notify you of it thanks to emergency services that will send out public text messages. However what if your smartphone could be used to detect those earthquakes even before they happen? That’s what researchers at the University of California-Berkeley are trying to do with a smartphone app.

This app will rely on your smartphone’s accelerometer to determine when an earthquake could be taking place. According to the researchers, they found that accelerometers in phones today are better than what they used to be, so much so that they are capable of detecting a magnitude 5 earthquake within 10km of its epicenter. It can detect earthquakes even further away for the more dangerous ones.

So what’s to stop the app from confusing a phone in your pocket from an actual earthquake? The researchers have developed an algorithm that will attempt to separate earthquakes from everyday motion and jostling. The data is sent to a central server, and if 60% of the app’s users in a particular area register an earthquake at the same time, it is safe to assume that it is one and they will then sound the alarm.

Unfortunately right now the app seems to be only compatible with Android devices, so if you’d like to download it on your phone and help crowdsource potential earthquake information, head on over to the Google Play Store for the download.

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