Inventors' Corner: U.S. Patent #7,693,663 - System and method for detection of earthquakes and tsunamis, and interface to warning systems

The patent describes a technique that uses data generated by vibration sensors (known as MEMS accelerometers) within computer hard disk drives to accurately and precisely conduct post-event analysis of seismic events, such as earthquakes. The invention also uses sensor data to assess and provide early warnings for tsunamis, which can follow earthquakes that occur at the ocean floor. Another benefit of this invention is the ability to rapidly measure and analyze the damage zone of an earthquake to help prioritize emergency response needed following an earthquake.

While the physics of earthquakes and earthquake detection is a well understood science, the seismograph technology used in this process is distributed over a broad area around the world. Consequently, earthquake data is limited to a few geographical locations and little post-event analysis is available to aid emergency response. In addition, the seismographs do not provide fine-grained data about where emergency response is needed and cannot predict impending events, such as tsunamis.

This can change and improve the effectiveness and timeliness of post-event rescue efforts in cities and other locations where efficient emergency response is essential following a natural disaster. It also provides a means to accurately predict the location and timing of subsequent catastrophic events, which will aid evacuation efforts.

The invention accomplishes this prediction by collecting hard drive sensor data and transmitting it via high speed networking to a data processing center, which can analyze the data, classify the events, and enrich the data -- in real time. Through this analysis, it can be determined exactly when a seismic event started, how long a seismic event lasted, the intensity of a seismic event, the frequency of motion of a seismic event, direction of motion of a seismic event, etc. The information is then delivered to decision makers for action, including the emergency response representatives, such as police, firefighters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency or other service providers.

U.S. Patent #7,693,663 was issued to inventors Robert Friedlander and James Kraemer