Raspberry Shake Detects Quakes

The Raspberry Pi’s goal, at least while it was being designed and built, was to promote computer science education by making it easier to access a working computer. What its low price tag also enabled was a revolution in distributed computing projects (among other things). One of those projects is the Raspberry Shake, a seismograph tool which can record nearby earthquakes.

Of course, the project just uses the Pi as a cost-effective computing solution. It runs custom software, but if you want to set up your own seismograph then you’ll also need some additional hardware. There are different versions of the Raspberry Shake, the simplest using a single Geophone which is a coil and magnet. Vibrations are detected by sensing the electric signal generated by the magnet moving within the coil of wire. Other models increase the count to three Geophones, or add in MEMS accelerometers, you can easily whip one of these up on your own bench.

The entire setup will fit nicely on a coffee table as well, making it much smaller (and cheaper) than a comparable professional seismograph. Once all of the Raspberry Shakes around the world were networked together, it gives an accurate, real-time view of seismic activity anywhere you can imagine. If you’ve ever been interested in geology or just want to see where the latest earthquake was, check out their projects. But you don’t need even a Raspberry Pi to see where the earthquakes are, thanks to a Hackaday Prize entry all you need is a Twitter account.

Thanks to [Rich Cochran] aka [AG6QR] for the tip!

17 thoughts on “Raspberry Shake Detects Quakes

  1. Hmm, I recall a hobby project (don’t call them amateurs any more without consequences) that had a set of largest early ‘super’ capacitors unloaded in a Faraday cage and not being charged & monitored with screened leads etc for micro voltage fluctuations over time. Of course there was some initial decline/settling from last usage to be left to float but, then they would ‘stabilise’ well yet still have seemingly unusual micro voltage fluctuations which appeared to correlate well with local tides and wider regional earth-moon distances too where there were negligible tidal differences and potentially earthquakes as well. I lost touch with that some 20+ years ago and heck it could have been just bad stats on electrolyte changes compared with local events in some conformational bias mode – who knows. These days and a very low cost could be worth setting up with good data logger. I have a few spare 3000F caps I use to start my car with only a small sealed lead acid battery to handle self discharge, don’t even need a solar panel as only run car once a week…

  2. >>The entire setup will fit nicely on a coffee table

    Which is great if you want to pick up children or prove to your room mates that they stomp through the house. If you want to use this for anything other than picking up delivery trucks and heavy footed people you should put this on a concrete slab or dedicated footer.

    1. Putting the device on a concrete slab or dedicated footer may be the ideal installation, but the device will pick up earth motion even on a desk (I’ve tried it – works fine). Sure, there are tons of background noise, but the fun is learning to distinguish background noise from actual quakes. With just such an installation I picked up a rather small quake that most people didn’t even notice. Of course, the really small quakes disappear into background noise, but at night when the background noise decreases, one can see smaller quakes.

  3. With their cheapest option being $380 in their shop and no kit options, I’m not that interested. I get that this is a scientific instrument that needs to be accurate as well as proven for this sort of project.
    I was hoping there was something more budget friendly where they recommend an IMU and have a distro for the Pi where I could put a Zero together with the IMU. The data would be questionable but could it still be useful?

    1. If you can’t “calibrate” device it is only marginally useful. You need to be able to get real ground motion from a stream of varying voltage from the geophone. If you can’t do that, then it is just a bunch of squiggles.

    2. I came across this before and the price put me off. That said, it would be interesting to try the idea using a suitably precise MEMS accelerometer, which has been described in the literature and should be much cheaper.

    1. If you can say nothing special then you either have not looked too closely or you have no idea of how much backend software is involved in this project. You get a box in the mail and you plug it in. The box connects to a server and identifies itself placing a triangle on the map colored by average noise. Then that sensor is added to an automatic Seiscomp3 locator and is immediately part of the automatic global and regional locations. It adds itself to a seismic wave server so that all the waveforms are publicly available. The data is placed in the EQinfo android app in a way each station owner can see the trace on their phone in real time with the location that the system generates. Most governments and universities can’t do this. The Raspberry Shake Network might be the most sophisticated seismic network in the world. Please explain why you think it is nothing special. What do you consider special?

      1. +1
        Though, do we really want an answer, well unless “Chico J” is personally involved with A comparable project with at least similar level of complexity :shrug: Since one liner barbs are as dirt cheap as unverifiable claims. Maybe he can surprise us with a great mix of psychological and intellectual equipment pertinent…

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