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


You Don’t Need a PhD to Improve Water Quality in Your Area

This re-post is in support of Blog Action Day 2010: Water.

Soon-to-be-released Mobile App
Lets Anyone Contribute Valuable Data

Many would agree that clean drinking water is one of our most precious resources. But what many don’t realize is that we walk over and drive passed our drinking water everyday, making valuable observations about the water’s condition as we do so.

The problem is that the folks with the authority to screen or take action to improve the health of our water can’t harness our precious observations, and there are many more of “us” than there are of “them.” In many cases the organizations charged with monitoring local water conditions are over-extended and in many areas are unable to physically monitor creeks and streams on their own due to sheer volume.

What if citizens could contribute to the health of their water supply – without PhDs, chemistry kits and a lot of time?

IBM Research is exploring a simple new form of data collection that could significantly help local water boards collect and analyze critical data about water. A form of crowdsourcing called Citizen Science, people passing by a creek or stream can snap a photo with their smart phone, answer a few simple questions about the condition of the water and instantly send it off to their local water authority.

Whether or not there is any water in a creek, if the water is free-flowing and if there is any trash in the water all represent critical data that citizen scientists could quickly collect during a hike, jog or bikeride, and greatly help their local water board make smarter decisions that effect us all.

In the city of San Jose, California where IBM Research – Almaden is based, there are more than 700 miles of creeks – far too much for one agency to effectively monitor -- prompting IBM Research to team up with the California State Water Resources Control Board and the City of San Jose Environmental Services to implement this application later this month.

Sign up to be notified when the app is available at www.creekwatch.org. The application is not specific to California, so use it in your local area and get your official water board on board with the power of citizen science.