Objectives at a glance:

Using mobile phones to record and deliver rapid, semi-quantitative earthquake shaking information

Develop the insights required to create a more objective, quantitative, rapid, and accurate assessment of the distribution of ground shaking during a major earthquake

Measuring Shaking Intensity with Mobile Phones

Earthquakes have a tremendous destructive potential both to livelihoods and infrastructure.

To reduce risks associated with earthquakes, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has made a commitment to pre-event mitigation measures and delivery of rapid and accurate post-earthquake information to community members. ShakeMap, PAGER, and “Did You Feel It?” are examples of some of the existing successful products.

Rather than relying on subjective user feedback, iShake proposes to use a ubiquitous device many people now possess, which can measure ground motion intensity parameters and automatically deliver data to USGS.

The iShake project proposes the use of cell phones to measure accelerations produced by earthquakes. The collected shaking response will be sent automatically as a text message immediately after the earthquake occurs to a server that will analyze, interpret, and post process the data.

Relatively high quality shaking data from thousands of cellular phones whose users have joined the project will enable USGS to produce ground shaking maps more rapidly and accurately than it currently can with “Did You Feel It?” and a limited number of high quality instruments.


iShake will build on “Did You Feel It?” and Rapid Instrumental Intensity Maps of USGS by using the accelerometer in cell phones to portray the damage effects of an earthquake to government officials and emergency responders immediately after an event.

Project Objectives

Long-Term Objectives

This research project proposes the development, deployment, and testing of the prototype for a new sensor array based on participatory sensing. The nodes in the sensor array will consist of phones voluntarily provided by participants.

One-Year Scope

  • Development of an earthquake sensing, streaming data, cellular phone software.
  • Quantifying the expected response of the cell phone as a seismic sensor through a series of shaking table tests.

  • Development of real-time, online data assimilation algorithms for data filtering, geotagging, and enrichment.
  • Testing the developed methodologies to evaluate the capabilities of a small network of cell phones on the UC Berkeley campus.

This technology has the potential to provide extensive, real-time earthquake data at a relatively low cost. The dense network of recorded shaking intensity data, and eventually other information, will have a significant impact on academia, industry, and government.