A new study published in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America has found that most smartphones, including laptops, maybe tweaked to become useful earthquake sensors as well.
The gadgets currently produced by manufacturers have the micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS), which according to researchers at Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology are sensitive enough to detect earthquakes of magnitude five or higher when located near the epicenter.
"Theoretically, any device connected to the Internet with an internal MEMS accelerometer, such as a computer or mobile phone, can become a strong-motion seismic station, and that could be easily used to enormously increase the number of observation points when an earthquake occurs," online portal Live Science quoted study co-author Antonino D'Alessandro as saying.
Researchers used a MEMS accelerometer found in iPhone 4 and iPhone 5, attached them to devices used in conventional seismic surveys, and then placed on a vibrating table. Afterwards, it was determined that both MEMS chips gave off the same readings as the conventional technology used by scientists to locate or forecast incoming earthquakes.
The devices would be able to gather date of upcoming moderate and large earthquakes or those with a magnitude of 5 or greater for as long as they were located near the epicentre.
"The number of victims following a strong earthquake depends mainly on the intensity of shaking, and the speed of rescue operations," Mr D'Alessandro said. "A real-time urban seismic network can drastically reduce casualties in urban areas immediately following a strong earthquake, by quickly distributing information about the distribution and intensity of ground shaking."