IBM Master Inventors patent early warning system       

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IBM Master Inventors patent early warning system - overview


Bob Friedlander and Jim Kraemer rely on MEMS accelerometers to analyze data from seismic events and predict earthquakes.

Bob Friedlander talks about the earthquake patent.

During his 30-year career, IBM Master Inventor Bob Friedlander has lived and worked on three continents and lived through three earthquakes. Friedlander's experience with multiple seismic events prompted him to ponder ways that technology could be used to enable more effective emergency response and preparedness in the event of an earthquake.

Friedlander teamed up with his frequent co-inventor and fellow Master Inventor Jim Kraemer to devise a system that uses vibration sensors found within conventional computer hard disk drives — known as MEMS accelerometers — to accurately and precisely analyze data from seismic events such as earthquakes. The invention rapidly measures and analyzes the damage zone of an earthquake to help allocate and prioritize emergency response resources. The analyzed data also can be used to provide early warnings for tsunamis, which can follow earthquakes that occur at the ocean floor.

Friedlander and Kraemer recently received U.S. Patent #7,693,663 for their natural disaster early warning system invention.

Pinpointing the problem

Although the physics of earthquakes and earthquake detection is a well understood science, seismograph technology used in this process is distributed over a broad area around the world. As a result, earthquake data is produced by a few geographical locations and very little post-event analysis is available to aid emergency response. Furthermore, the seismographs do not provide fine-grained data about where emergency response is needed and cannot predict subsequent events, such as tsunamis.

"Every modern hard drive has an accelerometer built into it and, with this invention, you can take the data off the device, network it together, analyze it, and generate actionable information that tells you in very fine detail what happened during an earthquake," Friedlander says. "It is a means to quickly learn what happened, receive a first estimate of what damage has been done, and help first responders determine where they should direct their emergency resources."

The Master Inventors' patented invention 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.

Crowdsourcing earthquake data

"There are streams of data ready to flow from data centers around the world and someone just needs to cup their hand and pull it out," Kraemer says. "This invention is able to crowd-source important earthquake data and rapidly make it available to people who can use it to help save lives."

The invention accomplishes this feat 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 would 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.

In addition to their patented earthquake invention, Friedlander and Kraemer frequently collaborate on inventions that can help people live and operate smarter and more safely on our planet. For example, they hold more than a dozen healthcare patents that can enable healthcare research, improve healthcare delivery, protect patient privacy, and enable better treatment and service.

More information about the earthquake patent and other interesting and important IBM patents can be found on the IBM Inventors' Corner.

Other smarter inventions

In addition to their patented earthquake invention, the two IBM researchers frequently collaborate on inventions that can help people live and operate smarter and more safely on our planet. For example, they hold more than a dozen healthcare patents that can enable healthcare research, improve healthcare delivery, protect patient privacy, and enable better treatment and service.

More information about the earthquake patent and other interesting and important IBM patents can be found on the IBM Inventors' Corner.

This article originally appeared on the IBM intranet and was written by Christopher Andrews.

Last updated on October 4, 2010.