Hackaday Prize Entry: Earthquake Warnings via Tweets

Seismic waves travel through the Earth’s crust at about four kilometers a second. Light travels through fiber at about 200,000 kilometers per second. Taking network lag into account, it’s possible to read a Tweet about an earthquake a few seconds before the shaking starts. This is the concept behind an XKCD strip and a project for the Hackaday Prize.

[Zalmotek]’s Earthquake Validation Gadget is an Internet-connected box designed for those few seconds between asking yourself, ‘is this an earthquake’ and saying, ‘yeah, this is totally an earthquake’. Inside this wall-mounted box is both a sensitive vibration sensor and a microcontroller connected to the Internet. If the vibration sensor goes off, it checks the Internet — the USGS website is a great start, by the way — for any large, local earthquakes. If there’s a possibility that shaking is an earthquake, lights and sirens go off, telling you to take cover.

The idea of an ‘earthquake warning device’ isn’t new. The USGS has a system in place for just this sort of thing. It’s good to see independent researchers working on this, though, and it makes for a great entry to the Hackaday Prize.

10 thoughts on “Hackaday Prize Entry: Earthquake Warnings via Tweets

  1. I just hope it works better than the tornado warning app…
    https://xkcd.com/937/

    Good luck to [Zalmotek]! Though I must say that there are possibly better passive sensors than mercury switches. Airbag controllers usually have a sensor under the front passenger seat, they are becoming quite an interesting device now that many new vehicles have side curtain airbags as well.
    Just a suggestion.

    1. Nope, it’s not. They’re using a mercury tilt switch. These people are so stupid they bought a “for Arduino” tilt switch.

      “The device is built up with an Adafruit Feather HUZZAH and a Mercury Tilt Switch Module for Arduino. They are programmed to detect if an earthquake is occurring based on vibration recorded and tweets by people next to you.”

      That is so mind-blowingly incompetent it’s practically criminal to claim this is an earthquake detector and imply it will provide any advance warning. “The building is shaking violently and people are tweeting that there is an earthquake”? Are they serious? How did this completely shit garbage make it to the front page of HaD?

      This is a one of those faux technology projects where they come up with some idea, execute an implementation just enough to fool people in their field / the media, and move on.

      Newsflash: even many MEMS accelerometers aren’t sensitive enough to pick up the pre-earthquake vibrations, they need to be properly coupled to the ground, you have to filter out things like trucks, etc.

        1. Looks like I have been misinformed. Shouldn’t try to go outside because an exterior wall could fall on you.

          I thought the bathroom was a safer place to be because the enclosed tub/shower area, but most bathrooms have fragile mirrors and usually a window. Not really safe at all…

          Safe place is under a strong table, preferably away from the kitchen’s assortment of sharp implements and dangerously heavy refrigerator.
          http://www.earthquakecountry.org/step5/

  2. Should integrate with Quake Catcher Network (QCN).

    If they are going to all the bother of networking their device, and running it all the time,
    why not use accelerometers and connect to something like Quake Catcher Network.
    http://qcn.stanford.edu/

    Sure, you would want to put a QCN device in basement (to minimize reports from door
    slamming, traffic, etc.). And it takes more compute power.

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