Since there are millions of Android devices around the world, there are a lot of ways that we can use these smartphones aside from our own personal uses. Google is now tapping into that wide network by making them part of a worldwide earthquake detection network that can give early alerts and earthquake warnings to people, especially those that live in quake prone areas. They are rolling out the first phase of this project and Android users can be part of the Android Earthquake Alerts System.

Smartphones come with tiny accelerometers that will be able to sense signals that an earthquake may be imminent or is already happening. If you opt in for this project and your phone detects a tremor, it will send a signal to the earthquake detection server and includes an estimated location of where this is happening. The server will then combine information from other phones and determine if an earthquake is actually happening.

The first stage of this project is Google’s partnership with the United States Geological Survey and the California Office of Emergency Services. They will be sending earthquake alerts to Android users in the state using the ShakeAlert system that uses signals from more than 700 seismometers. Even if it’s just a few seconds warning, it may actually make a difference for those who are experiencing the tremors.

The next phase will involve Android devices directly. They will be showing localized results in Google searches based on the data detected from Android smartphones. You can search for earthquake or earthquakes near you and you’ll see relevant results. Basically if you think you felt an earthquake, you can search to see if you’re correct or not. Eventually, when the accuracy of the system has already been well-tested, the third phase is to send out earthquake warnings and you won’t need seismometer-based warning systems.

The second and third phases will take a bit more time so we’ll keep you updated with how this Android Earthquake Alerts System will progress. The end goal is still to be able to help the hundreds of millions of people that are located near earthquake fault zones.