Shake 'em up, boss. (credit: Berkeley Seismological Laboratory)

Imagine you’re a seismologist. In addition to studying data from earthquakes after the fact, you’d like to get out warnings to help save lives the moment one hits. To do that, you’re going to need enough seismometers to guarantee that you have one near the epicenter.

Seismometers cost money to install and operate properly—but everyone with a smartphone has a passable one in their pocket. Harness enough of them and you’ve got yourself a crowdsourced earthquake-detection network that could work absolutely anywhere.

Researchers have played with similar ideas in the past but have mainly had to rely on dedicated devices, along with volunteers who were willing to connect them to their computers. But in a paper published today in Science Advances, a group led by University of California-Berkeley’s Qingkai Kong describes an Android app (available now) that’s up to the task.

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