Smartphones could help protect people from earthquakes

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Your Smartphone Could Help Detect Earthquakes

US Geological Survey released the results of a study Friday that found the sensors in smartphones and other similar devices could be used to detect early ground movement to warn people about a potential earthquake.

While the sensors in your iPhone or Android device aren't anywhere near as accurate as the advanced early warning systems the USGS relies on, the system could be used in poorer areas that lack the funding for the high tech detection approach.

The ShakeAlert system is one of the scientific-grade warning systems that will soon be used on the west coast -- but it costs roughly $145 million dollars.

"The U.S. earthquake early warning system is being built on our high-quality scientific earthquake networks," the USGS Coordinator for that system said. "But crowdsourced approaches can augment our system and have real potential to make warnings possible in places that don't have high-quality networks."

By using smart phones, data can be easily gathered from pretty much anywhere on the planet. A map created by NASA and Pacifico shows how researchers can use shared GPS data from multiple cell phones in the same area to detect changes in the the displacement of the ground.

The sensors may only be useful for catching the most dangerous and damaging quakes -- about magnitude 7 or larger. For context, the earthquake that hit the San Francisco Bay Area in 1989 was a 6.9 magnitude, in 1994 an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.7 devastated Los Angeles, and in February of this year a 6.7 magnitude earthquake hit off the coast of Japan.

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6.0 earthquake Northern California - August 24, 2014
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Smartphones could help protect people from earthquakes
A mailbox is all that remains of one of four mobile homes which were destroyed in a gas fire Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, at the Napa Valley Mobile Home Park, in Napa, Calif. A large earthquake caused significant damage and left at least three critically injured in California's northern Bay Area early Sunday, igniting fires, sending at least 87 people to a hospital, knocking out power to tens of thousands and sending residents running out of their homes in the darkness. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
A Napa firefighter inspects one of four mobile homes that were destroyed in a gas fire Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, at the Napa Valley Mobile Home Park, in Napa, Calif. A large earthquake caused significant damage and left at least three critically injured in California's northern Bay Area early Sunday, igniting fires, sending at least 87 people to a hospital, knocking out power to tens of thousands and sending residents running out of their homes in the darkness. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Napa firemen douse the remains of a mobile home Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, at the Napa Valley Mobile Home Park, in Napa, Calif. A large earthquake caused significant damage and left at least three critically injured in California's northern Bay Area early Sunday, igniting fires, sending at least 87 people to a hospital, knocking out power to tens of thousands and sending residents running out of their homes in the darkness. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
The remains of one of four mobile homes smolders after a fire engulfed it Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, at the Napa Valley Mobile Home Park, in Napa, Calif. A large earthquake caused significant damage and left at least three critically injured in California's northern Bay Area early Sunday, igniting fires, sending at least 87 people to a hospital, knocking out power to tens of thousands and sending residents running out of their homes in the darkness. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Napa Fire Captain Steve Becker inspects mobile homes which were destroyed Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, at the Napa Valley Mobile Home Park, in Napa, Calif. A gas fire at the park is being blamed as the result of a 6.0-magnitude earthquake which struck California's northern San Francisco Bay area this morning. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Steve Brody inspects damage to the interior of his mobile home after an earthquake Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, at the Napa Valley Mobile Home Park, in Napa, Calif. A large earthquake caused significant damage and left at least three critically injured in California's northern Bay Area early Sunday, igniting fires, sending at least 87 people to a hospital, knocking out power to tens of thousands and sending residents running out of their homes in the darkness. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Nina Quidit cleans up the Dollar Plus and Party Supplies Store in American Canyon Calif. after an earthquake on Sunday Aug. 24, 2014. Quidit and her husband were woken up in the early morning hours by the store's alarm company and immediately drove in to begin clean up. The 6.0-magnitude quake caused six significant fires, including at four mobile homes, Napa Division Fire Chief Darren Drake said. (AP Photo/Alex Washburn)
A youngster rides his scooter over a sidewalk buckled by an earthquake Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Napa, Calif. A large earthquake caused significant damage and left at least three critically injured in California's northern Bay Area early Sunday, igniting fires, sending at least 87 people to a hospital, knocking out power to tens of thousands and sending residents running out of their homes in the darkness. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
RT @WillKane Firefighters are doing their best to control the blaze, calling for an ambulance. http://t.co/WMGqnrfwZq #earthquake
People walk past a tumbled mannequin and broken storefront window on First Street following an earthquake Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Napa, Calif. A large earthquake rolled through California's northern Bay Area early Sunday, damaging some buildings, igniting fires, knocking out power to tens of thousands and sending residents running out of their homes in the darkness.(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
A broken mannequin and storefront window are on First Street following an earthquake Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Napa, Calif. A large earthquake rolled through California's northern Bay Area early Sunday, damaging some buildings, igniting fires, knocking out power to tens of thousands and sending residents running out of their homes in the darkness. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Bricks are in the street after a building was damaged during an earthquake in Napa, Calif., Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014. A large earthquake rolled through California's northern Bay Area early Sunday, damaging some buildings, knocking out power to thousands and sending residents running out of their homes in the darkness. (AP Photo/Ellen Knickmeyer)
NAPA, CA - AUGUST 24: A man surveys a destroyed building following a reported 6.0 earthquake on August 24, 2014 in Napa, California. A 6.0 earthquake rocked the San Francisco Bay Area shortly after 3am on Sunday morning. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Bricks and rubble cover the sidewalk in front of a heavily damaged building following an earthquake Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Napa, Calif. A large earthquake caused significant damage and left three critically injured in California's northern Bay Area early Sunday, igniting fires, sending at least 87 people to a hospital, knocking out power to tens of thousands and sending residents running out of their homes in the darkness. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Two men on bicycles ride past the Vintners Collective tasting room and look at damage following an earthquake Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Napa, Calif. A large earthquake caused significant damage and left three critically injured in California's northern Bay Area early Sunday, igniting fires, sending at least 87 people to a hospital, knocking out power to tens of thousands and sending residents running out of their homes in the darkness. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
I just escaped the #Napa #earthquake. Everything fell around me and not on me. http://t.co/TF4uhxhfmA
Earthquake at @SilverOak http://t.co/uSfHX2WzBk
1st pics of #earthquake damage in Napa MT @acr What that looked/felt like for in laws in Napa. #earthquake http://t.co/PDoWfwHssx
Will be barrel pickup sticks #napaearthquake http://t.co/4WRYxfJ2vs
Police tape blocks the entrance to the damaged main post office following an earthquake Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Napa, Calif. A large earthquake caused significant damage in California's northern Bay Area early Sunday, sending at least 70 people to a hospital, igniting fires, knocking out power to tens of thousands and sending residents running out of their homes in the darkness. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Jorge Sanchez looks over damage to the main post office following an earthquake Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Napa, Calif. A large earthquake caused significant damage in California's northern Bay Area early Sunday, sending at least 70 people to a hospital, igniting fires, knocking out power to tens of thousands and sending residents running out of their homes in the darkness. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Water flows out of McCaulous's department store past a broken storefront window following an earthquake Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Napa, Calif. A large earthquake caused significant damage in California's northern Bay Area early Sunday, sending at least 70 people to a hospital, igniting fires, knocking out power to tens of thousands and sending residents running out of their homes in the darkness. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Alan Mathison works at cleaning up a broken storefront window following an earthquake Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Napa, Calif. A large earthquake caused significant damage in California's northern Bay Area early Sunday, sending at least 70 people to a hospital, igniting fires, knocking out power to tens of thousands and sending residents running out of their homes in the darkness. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Jorge Sanchez, left, and Rob Doughty, right, look over damage to the main post office following an earthquake Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Napa, Calif. A large earthquake caused significant damage in California's northern Bay Area early Sunday, sending at least 70 people to a hospital, igniting fires, knocking out power to tens of thousands and sending residents running out of their homes in the darkness. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
People watch as water flows out of McCaulous's department store following an earthquake Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Napa, Calif. A large earthquake caused significant damage in California's northern Bay Area early Sunday, sending at least 70 people to a hospital, igniting fires, knocking out power to tens of thousands and sending residents running out of their homes in the darkness. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Gurbir Bhandahl, an employee at a 7-Eleven store, cleans up after an earthquake Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in American Canyon, Calif. A large earthquake caused significant damage in California's northern Bay Area early Sunday, sending at least 70 people to a hospital, igniting fires, knocking out power to tens of thousands and sending residents running out of their homes in the darkness. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Cans and bottles litter the floor of cold box at a 7-Eleven store after an earthquake Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in American Canyon, Calif. A large earthquake caused significant damage in California's northern Bay Area early Sunday, sending at least 70 people to a hospital, igniting fires, knocking out power to tens of thousands and sending residents running out of their homes in the darkness. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Jean Meehan looks over the damage to her JHM Stamp and Collectibles store following an earthquake Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Napa, Calif. A large earthquake caused significant damage in California's northern Bay Area early Sunday, sending at least 70 people to a hospital, igniting fires, knocking out power to tens of thousands and sending residents running out of their homes in the darkness. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Gurbeer Singh cleans up merchandise which fell due to an earthquake Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, at a 7-11 store in American Canyon, Calif. Officials say an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.0 has been reported in California's northern San Francisco Bay area. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
A Safeway employee cleans up merchandise which fell due to an earthquake Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in American Canyon, Calif. Officials say an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.0 has been reported in California's northern San Francisco Bay area. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Gurbeer Singh cleans up merchandise which fell due to an earthquake at a 7-Eleven store Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in American Canyon, Calif. Officials say an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.0 has been reported in California's northern San Francisco Bay area. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
This photo provided by Lyall Davenport shows damage to a building in Napa, Calif. early Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014. Officials say an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.0 has been reported in California's northern San Francisco Bay area. (AP Photo/Lyall Davenport)
NAPA, CA - AUGUST 24: A building is seen destroyed following a reported 6.0 earthquake on August 24, 2014 in Napa, California. A 6.0 earthquake rocked the San Francisco Bay Area shortly after 3 am on Sunday morning. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NAPA, CA - AUGUST 24: People wearing bathrobes walk down a street following a reported 6.0 earthquake on August 24, 2014 in Napa, California. A 6.0 earthquake rocked the San Francisco Bay Area shortly after 3 am on Sunday morning. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NAPA, CA - AUGUST 24: A building is seen destroyed following a reported 6.0 earthquake on August 24, 2014 in Napa, California. A 6.0 earthquake rocked the San Francisco Bay Area shortly after 3 am on Sunday morning. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NAPA, CA - AUGUST 24: A journalist documents a destroyed building following a reported 6.0 earthquake on August 24, 2014 in Napa, California. A 6.0 earthquake rocked the San Francisco Bay Area shortly after 3 am on Sunday morning. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NAPA, CA - AUGUST 24: A reporter surveys the scene of a building collapse following a reported 6.0 earthquake on August 24, 2014 in Napa, California. A 6.0 earthquake rocked the San Francisco Bay Area shortly after 3:00 am on Sunday morning causing damage to buildings and sending at least 70 people to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NAPA, CA - AUGUST 24: Glass from a business litters the ground following a reported 6.0 earthquake on August 24, 2014 in Napa, California. A 6.0 earthquake rocked the San Francisco Bay Area shortly after 3am on Sunday morning. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NAPA, CA - AUGUST 24: Glass from a business litters the ground following a reported 6.0 earthquake on August 24, 2014 in Napa, California. A 6.0 earthquake rocked the San Francisco Bay Area shortly after 3am on Sunday morning. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NAPA, CA - AUGUST 24: People survey a destroyed building following a reported 6.0 earthquake on August 24, 2014 in Napa, California. A 6.0 earthquake rocked the San Francisco Bay Area shortly after 3am on Sunday morning. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NAPA, CA - AUGUST 24: A man takes a picture of a destroyed building following a reported 6.0 earthquake on August 24, 2014 in Napa, California. A 6.0 earthquake rocked the San Francisco Bay Area shortly after 3am on Sunday morning. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Rubble covers the sidewalk in front of the Vintners Collective multi-winery tasting room following an earthquake Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Napa, Calif. A large earthquake rolled through California's northern Bay Area early Sunday, damaging some buildings, igniting fires, knocking out power to tens of thousands and sending residents running out of their homes in the darkness.(AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Will Wright, left, and Joe Pfeifer, right, clean up the broken windows of a restaurant following an earthquake Sunday, Aug. 24, 2014, in Napa, Calif. A large earthquake rolled through California's northern Bay Area early Sunday, damaging some buildings, igniting fires, knocking out power to tens of thousands and sending residents running out of their homes in the darkness. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
NAPA, CA - AUGUST 24: Workers clean up piles of bottles that were thrown from the shelves at Van's Liquors following a reported 6.0 earthquake on August 24, 2014 in Napa, California. A 6.0 earthquake rocked the San Francisco Bay Area shortly after 3:00 am on Sunday morning causing damage to buildings and sending at least 70 people to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NAPA, CA - AUGUST 24: People survey a damaged car following a reported 6.0 earthquake on August 24, 2014 in Napa, California. A 6.0 earthquake rocked the San Francisco Bay Area shortly after 3:00 am on Sunday morning causing damage to buildings and sending at least 70 people to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NAPA, CA - AUGUST 24: Police officers prop up a fallen door in front of a damaged buillding following a reported 6.0 earthquake on August 24, 2014 in Napa, California. A 6.0 earthquake rocked the San Francisco Bay Area shortly after 3:00 am on Sunday morning causing damage to buildings and sending at least 70 people to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
NAPA, CA - AUGUST 24: A section of the Napa County Court house is seen damaged following a reported 6.0 earthquake on August 24, 2014 in Napa, California. A 6.0 earthquake rocked the San Francisco Bay Area shortly after 3:00 am on Sunday morning causing damage to buildings and sending at least 70 people to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
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