How IoT and cloud technology can change the way we monitor earthquakes
Italy is the most earthquake prone country in Europe, lying close to the line where the Eurasian and African plates meet and constantly grate against each other creating seismic and volcanic tension. According to the National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (Ingv), the earthquakes counted in 2017 alone along the Italian peninsula were over 44,000. An average of 120 per day, five per hour. That is: an earthquake every twelve minutes. Most of these are micro-earthquakes, shocks that are rarely felt by the general population.
How does all this seismic activity affect our homes, buildings and infrastructures? Understanding these vulnerabilities and taking steps to help prevent major damage is essential and could potentially save lives.
Quakebots is a seismic monitoring system that uses IoT and cloud technology to record how buildings react to seismic stress. Through the use of AI, they create classification maps that can help understand which buildings may be most vulnerable.
Sensors, called nodes, are installed inside buildings on a load-bearing wall and from that moment start using the wifi network to communicate information to the cloud system. All systems work on the network, so data coming from a system is used to create value for other buildings. The data can then be used by engineers and architects for the different phases of seismic retrofitting. “In Italy we have 7 million buildings in areas with high to medium seismic risk that were built before the 70s” explains Quakebots Founder & CTO Gianni Alessandroni.
Earthquakes are not the only contributing factor – anthropic activity, the vibrations caused by traffic, railways, subways, or even remodeling inside the buildings themselves. The system is able to record all these vibrations and give information about the stress that the building undergoes.
Alessandroni explains how his involvement in the aftermath of the earthquake in l’Aquila (2009) helped shape the idea that became Quakebots. “At the time, I was in charge of the support service for the regional emergency services hotline in Abruzzo. On the day of the earthquake at 6 am, we were told that the hospital had to be evacuated. We took everything we had in the office – servers, workstations – and we went up to L’Aquila and within a few hours we rebuilt a dispatch center, allowing emergency services to continue uninterrupted. I saw the damage, what happened and in the wave of emotions I asked myself if those buildings had previously given any signs of the devastation to come.”
Currently they have almost a hundred buildings being monitored 24/7 in various regions of Italy, including Calabria and Umbria, and their network of Quakebot Nodes is growing. They’ve even received funding from the European Commission SME Instruments Horizon 2020 and won a grant from the Microsoft Bizspark+ program.