Your Android Phone and Earthquakes in Loja Ecuador

Did you know that your phone is part of the largest seismic detection network in the world? Two billion Android-based phones are in use globally and most are capable of notifying Google's Crisis Response System when they detect a possible earthquake.

It is actually a fairly simple setup. The phones make use of their built-in accelerometer and gyroscope functions to recognize out-of-the-ordinary movements. For example, you might have a phone that sends an alert if it detects a sudden deceleration like in a car crash, or sends an alert if it senses that you have fallen down and can't get up. The same sensors can detect the vibrations and their speed which are created by a geologic tremor.

The cellphones then send these signals to Google's detection servers over the internet. Google analyzes the signals being received from multiple sources and based on the location of these phones generates an approximate location of the event. An alert is then issued to other phones in the area. Of course, the alert is not predictive but is "after the fact" - the system can tell you a quake has occurred or is in progress but it can't warn you of an upcoming one.

These Android-based alerts are limited in information. They can only identify approximate locations and magnitudes. In Ecuador, there is a national seismic network (RENSIG) that is operated by the EPN Geophysical Institute (IG-EPN) with more than 200 instruments deployed nationwide to determine the precise location and magnitude of an earthquake after its occurrence.

The IG-EPN uses the Seiscomp (Gempa ®) analysis and processing system - a computer analyzes seismic waves and then generates an automatic warning that is issued through social networks 3 minutes after the event, which is the time it takes for the system to determine a reliable location and calculate a magnitude. This is a preliminary notification. Then a qualified operator inspects the seismic waves manually, ratifying and/or correcting what the system provided automatically and a revised notice is transmitted about 5 minutes after that first alert.

The monitoring center of the IG-EPN operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to be able to issue accurate and timely information regarding seismic and volcanic phenomena.

Earthquakes (tremors, tremblers, shakers) are a fact of life in Ecuador. Most are of very small magnitude and result in no damage. Loja is actually one of the safer locations for people looking to relocate. Isn't it nice to know that your phone cannot only alert you to an event, but it also can help alert others?

[Images and information for this blog post from For additional information on the Google Crisis Alert System visit: ]


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