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Volunteer Computing for Earthquake Detection


An Asia@Home workshop took place at Academia Sinica in Taipei last week, bringing together Taiwanese and international experts in earthquake science and in distributed computing. On the agenda was the use of ordinary consumer electronics — PCs, laptops, and even smartphones — to build earthquake sensor networks in homes, schools, and offices to provide scientists with valuable data about future seismic events in Taiwan and SE Asia.

The recent earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand are a reminder of the destructive forces that underlie the "Ring of Fire" extending around the Pacific. Getting a better understanding of how earthquakes will affect different regions requires more data and more computing power. Both can be provided by volunteers from their homes, thanks to "volunteer computing," which Academia Sinica has been pioneering in Taiwan through a series of Asia@Home workshops over the last three years.

At the workshop, researchers David Anderson (UC Berkeley), Carl Christensen (UC Berkeley), and Elizabeth Cochran (UC Riverside), presented results from their Quake-Catcher Network project (built through UC Berkeley's BOINC open-source software for grid computing framework). The project uses built-in or USB motion sensors on ordinary computers to form a new type of sensor network.

The researchers also discussed with their Taiwanese and SE Asian counterparts how home computers might help to calculate the impact of earthquakes in advance, helping authorities to better plan for seismic events.

Information about joining the Quake-Catcher Network can be found here.

[Click image to view at full size]
Aftershocks off the coast of Japan, all at more than magnitude 4, captured by the Quake-Catcher Network (Courtesy of Carl Christensen, Quake-Catcher Network project).


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