The detection of earthquakes has just become easier, aided by a developing technology. Iceland researchers have come to a conclusion that fiber-optic cables used in communication can effectively monitor seismic activity. Fiber-optic cables are used worldwide for providing television and internet service, by laying them underground. The method has proved to be success, as the cables were sensitive to the ground shaking; however, it is too early to put it for a widespread use. Earthquake sensing systems have grown leaps and bounds today, and this technique makes it to the list of techniques used for earthquake testing.
The fiber-optic cable technique was put to test by the German Research Center for Geosciences, with Doctor Philippe Jousset as the leader. The cable used was 15 kms in length and was installed in 1994 between two power plants. They used laser pulses along the cable length to observe disturbances. Dr. Jousset remarked that using this technique, earthquakes could be detected from long distances. The team was able to detect even local traffic as well as passing pedestrians. Dr. Jousset said that the device was comparable to a seismometer, which is traditionally used for measuring seismic activity. The instrument required as an attachment to the cable for possible monitoring is presently expensive; however, if cheaper alternatives are discovered, this can be an effective technique for seismic monitoring. Doctor Elizabeth Cochran, geophysicist with USGS, stated that through continuous refining of the technology, this will become a very effective monitoring system. This kind of network is already used in Mexico and Japan. However, challenges may persist in the form of reluctance of the communications companies in agreeing to the concept.
Meanwhile, an app designed by researchers to detect earthquakes, called MyShake, and launched in February on Android, has been performing extraordinarily well, being able to record even small seismic activities. The app functions through a complex algorithm that picks up vibrations from the phone’s accelerometer, and functions background. As soon as it is triggered, a signal to central server is sent, from where it determines the location and magnitude of the quake. It is intelligent enough to distinguish between human movement and earthquake vibrations.