Most smartphones have accelerometers that make automatic screen rotation and other features possible. Now Google has found another user for them: earthquake detection.
The company is rolling out a feature for Android smartphones that can allow your mobile device to sense the kind of movements that might indicate an earthquake is happening. Then your phone can send an anonymous signal to Google’s servers, and if enough phones in an area are sending similar signals then Google can identify an earthquake and send out an alert to everyone in the area.
Google says the Android Earthquake Alerts System is rolling out globally starting today.
Anyone can search Google from their phone for “earthquake” or “earthquake near me” to find relevant results. Google may also ask if you’ve felt the ground shake to gather additional information.
The Android Earthquake Alerts System will be available for devices running Android 5.0 or later, but if you’d rather not have your phone participate in Google’s seismology network, Ars Technica notes that you’ll be able to opt out by adjusting your Google Location Accuracy settings (although it’s unclear if that will affect other apps and services that require on location data).
Earthquake alerts are just one of several new features coming to Android phones focused on safety, accessibility, and well being. Here are some others:
- Google says phones running Android 4.1 or later with Google Play Services installed can also now send your device language settings to emergency services when you call 911 (or the equivalent number in 29 countries).
- Android Auto has a calendar app that lets you get directions or make calls quickly from a minimal user interface for distraction-free (or at least distraction-less) driving.
- Bedtime mode is coming to all devices running Android or later (the service which lets you adjust your notifications for limited interruptions at specific times was previously a Pixel exclusive).
- The Lookout app that users computer vision to help blind and low-vision users use their phones can now scan long form documents into readable text. It also works with more languages and phones.