The chip did not accurately detect small movements, suggesting it would not be useful in small earthquakes, but the researchers noted that MEMS technology is advancing, and might soon be able to deal with subtler movements.
Researchers at Stanford University in California have also recently explored ways to use MEMS technology in seismic networks, and have even begun creating an international network of volunteer internet users called the Quake-Catcher Network.
While such networks are valuable, they may not be possible to create well in poor or remote cities, where fewer residents have Internet access, D'Alessandro noted. As an alternative, the team suggested manufacturers could develop MEMS devices for the sole purpose of collecting seismic data, and distribute them to emergency management teams in earthquake-prone cities. The teams could then deploy the devices to locations as they see fit.
The research group is now testing a new MEMS accelerometer model that they say is 100 times more sensitive than the one currently used in iPhones, which may be sensitive enough to accurately record small-scale earthquakes.