Earthquake validation gadget

It's a gadget that detects both the vibration of an earthquake and the tweets next to your location that contain #earthquake references.

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Remember the last time you felt like an earthquake has started but you were not sure so you spent precious seconds looking around and to your phone to check social media instead of acting to save yourself and your family? Our gadget gives you certainty in a second so you can act and not panic!

Currently, the Earthquake validation gadget is a functional prototype designed to enable people to alleviate uncertainty and thus not panic when an earthquake occurs. In a nutshell, the gadget detects both vibration and tweets next to your location that contain earthquake references. Once the earthquake is validated from both sources, the gadget signals its presence through a loud noise and a red light. After the device is removed from its slot, it can act as a flashlight as well. As long as the button is pushed, the light will change from red to white and the sound will stop. In order to save energy, the light will only be on when the button is being pushed.


Earthquakes are an everyday reality, since as The United States Geological Survey estimates that around 50 earthquakes can be located daily worldwide. Irrespective of their magnitude, one of the main issues regarding this kind of phenomena is the uncertainty. Specifically, it takes up to 5 or 6 seconds for people to realize that an earthquake is occurring. Moreover, because of not being able to realize immediately what is happening, people start to panic, thus becoming “earthquake sensitive” or even more developing the so-called “seismophobia”.

Value Proposition

This natural disaster lasts, in general, for only a minute or so. If you did not feel the first replica you might not be ready for the next ones. This product transforms panic into certainty.

Tech solution

The technology is simple and robust and that’s what you look for in this scenario. The gadget is fixed firmly on a wall. There is a very sensitive vibration sensor (mercury tilt switch) that once triggered it sends a signal to the development board that checks tweets in your region for the hashtag earthquake or any other word that you decide is relevant in your language. In turn this enables the red color of the main RGB and an audio warning that an earthquake has started. You can grab the device from the wall and use it as a flashlight with the white color of the RGB at full strength if you choose so. It’s time to act!

Use case

It can be also be seen as an opportunity for hospitals, public institutions or companies in order to help people not to panic. In time data can be gathered and could become an important asset to create a mapped area with the information from the sensors.

Even though at the moment it has only one sensor in order to demonstrate that this concept is feasible, other sensors can also be investigated for a higher sensitivity and other online services apart from twitter (like official seismic institutes) could be used to crosscheck and validate the information or to improve the reaction time.


the main file used on the prototype, upload using the Arduino IDE

ino - 1.51 kB - 04/22/2017 at 12:31


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  • First impressions

    Zalmotek04/22/2017 at 13:29 0 comments

    The device is built up with an Adafruit Feather HUZZAH and a Mercury Tilt Switch Module for Arduino. They are programmed to detect if an earthquake is occurring based on vibration recorded and tweets by people next to you.

    A push button was mounted on the side to switch to flashlight but only while it is pressed to conserve battery life. A secondary button, could control a short loud rescue signal for trapped people.

    The tilt sensor works best in horizontal position. Therefore mounting it against a wall is the optimal setup, as evidenced by initial prototyping and testing.

View project log

  • 1
    Step 1

    Get the components we recommended or some alternatives for them (be advised that you might need to tweak the code for the second option)

  • 2
    Step 2

    Assemble the components in the following way for the code to work:

    • Mercury tilt switch connected to the ADC pin of the Feather Huzzah
    • Btn switch connected to the digital pin 12 of the Feather
    • The RGB Neopixel is connected to the the digital pin 15 of the Feather
    • The Buzzer is connected to the digital pin 0 of the Feather
  • 3
    Step 3

    Load the Arduino code provided on the Feather Huzzah board after properly installing the libraries on your system as instructed by Adafruit

View all 4 instructions

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Zalmotek wrote 05/09/2017 at 07:21 point

Thank you for asking,

I was just what we had on hand at the moment, it behaves "digital" so we only get a On or Off based on vibration, we are considering building 2 more prototypes one with accelerometer and one with a sensitive vibration sensor to further calibrate and test the system.

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Frank Buss wrote 05/08/2017 at 16:35 point

That's nice, but what is the advantage of a mercury tilt sensor (which might be difficult to get and expensive) compared to a MEMS accelerometer? I think MEMS sensors are more sensitive, and works with Arduino, too:

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