You might not want an extensive sensor network or a host of volunteers to find earthquakes within the future — in fact, the lines supplying your net access might do the trick. Researchers have developed technology that detects seismic activity through jiggling in fiber optic lines. laser interrogators watch for disturbances within the fiber and send info regarding the magnitude and direction of tremors. The system can’t only detect different types of seismic waves (and so confirm the seriousness of the threat), but spot very minor or localized quakes that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Fiber-based detection is not strictly new, but it previously centered around acoustic sensing that required wrapping them in cement, sticking them to a surface or otherwise ensuring they contact the ground (to make it easier to identify impurities within the signal). that is not necessary with the new method — you’ll use existing fiber lines housed in plastic pipes. It should be considerably easier and cheaper to implement these detectors.
There are plenty of challenges to making this a reality. It’s limited by the size of the fiber network, so it could miss rural areas that do not have much if any fiber. and therefore the current proof of concept is a relatively modest 3-mile loop around Stanford University. It could be a much more daunting prospect to run a sensor network across an entire city, let alone cross-country. this could still be way more affordable than rolling out dedicated sensors, however, and therefore the sheer precision of using fiber (every part of the line counts) could provide earthquake information that hasn’t been an option before.