IBM-backed Grillo open sources earthquake early-warning system through The Linux Foundation

By IBM Developer Staff

Earlier today, The Linux Foundation announced it will host a new initiative to accelerate the standardization and deployment of earthquake early-warning systems (EEWs) for earthquake preparedness around the world. Created by Grillo with support from IBM, USAID, the Clinton Foundation, and Arrow Electronics, the OpenEEWproject includes the core components of the Grillo EEW system comprised of integrated capabilities to sense, detect, and analyze earthquakes and to alert communities.

Originally connected to Grillo through the Clinton Foundation at a convening of the Clinton Global Initiative(CGI) Action Network, IBM is now playing a role supporting Grillo by adding the OpenEEW earthquake technology into the Call for Codedeployment pipeline supported by The Linux Foundation.

We sat down with Call for Code Chief Technology Officer Daniel Krook and IBM Developer Advocate Pedro Cruz to learn more about OpenEEW, the open source project to develop potentially life-saving earthquake early-warning systems.

Q: Why is IBM interested in earthquake warning systems?

Pedro: In early January, the largest earthquake I’ve ever felt hit Puerto Rico, a 6.4 magnitude. While some cities are equipped to face earthquakes, Puerto Rico’s island infrastructure and construction woes make our local community fearful of what could come next. There are many communities around the world that face these same infrastructure challenges that bear the brunt of impacts from earthquakes.

If my community had an early warning to take cover or move to safety, even just a few seconds before the shaking started, it could help keep our community safer.

2.7 billion people live with the threat of earthquakes globally, yet only a few countries, such as Japan and Taiwan, have a full nation-wide Earthquake Early-Warning system (EEW). To my observation, existing systems are costly, complex, and not readily available for mass deployment in many communities that need them. An accessible system is needed to help vulnerable communities like mine in Puerto Rico – a system that developers can build on, where everyday people and citizen scientists can contribute to advance real-time earthquake monitoring.

Daniel: We see OpenEEW as a promising earthquake monitoring system of the future and a way to potentially help save people’s lives. The world has a need for a less costly and simple solution that can alert people to leave a building before shaking starts. Progress towards this goal can be made with off-the-shelf technology instead of million-dollar systems.

Through Call for Code, created by David Clark Cause and supported by Founding Partner IBM, Charitable Partner United Nations Human Rights, and Program Affiliate The Linux Foundation, we have created an incredible infrastructure to help society tackle the world’s most pressing challenges including natural disasters through open source technology. We want to do more to help keep people safe during earthquakes by incubating projects like OpenEEW.

Q: Why open source? How can this help Grillo be deployed globally?

Daniel: Amid a rising tide of disasters and social and economic inequalities that hold people back, we know those challenges are experienced differently by communities around the world. To drive meaningful impact, we need to craft solutions that work at the local level but can scale and help any community – potentially anytime, anywhere. Open source provides a powerful way for us to do that.

So, today’s announcement is an exciting step toward the creation of community-driven earthquake early-warning systems around the globe.

In 2019, Grillo connected with IBM at the CGI Action Network on Post-Disaster Recovery, resulting in the addition of Grillo’s advanced technology to our portfolio of Call for Code solutions as OpenEEW. Now, with IBM and The Linux Foundation’s support, the developer and citizen science communities can help us advance the technology and help Grillo make its footprint more global.

Pedro: I know this system works and the potential it can realize if we can scale this globally. With IBM’s support, I helped install some of Grillo’s sensors around Puerto Rico. Last month, I received an early warning at my house about a magnitude 4.0 earthquake that was centered in the southwest part of the island. This alerted me to go outside of my house to a safe location in advance of the tremor.

This system and the underlying technology has amazing potential, and I believe open source can help make the OpenEEW network global, more effective and part of communities around the world.

Q: What is IBM doing to advance and help develop Grillo’s technology?

Daniel: Today, Grillo has 1TB of data gathered from sensors deployed in Mexico, Chile, Puerto Rico, and Costa Rica that continue to enrich the OpenEEW dataset that has been collected since 2017 from its original systemGrillo’s open data set can be accessed hereand will be complemented by the newly released OpenEEW tools for collection and analysis.

Grillo has already done an incredible job developing a lower price point seismometer, pre-programmed to stream data to the cloud, which can be monitored remotely. We also connected Grillo with Call for Code sponsor, Arrow Electronics, to advise on how to best assemble and distribute their devices – ultimately providing a great option for developers who don’t want to spend time assembling their own hardware.

Pedro: We are complementing Grillo’s earthquake analysis tools with Node-RED, and helping the OpenEEW community expand a Docker-based container solution that can be tested and run locally. It can be optionally deployed to Kubernetes/OpenShift on the IBM Cloud as part of the pathway to building an open source community.

By lowering the cost of earthquake technology through the cloud and new hardware, we can help make the technology available to more communities. These systems can help people who live with constant anxiety of when the next earthquake will hit.
Q: How can the open source community get involved?

Daniel: As a developer, data scientist, entrepreneur, maker or seismologist, you have an exciting opportunity to help advance OpenEEW – and your different communities can help us by advancing the different components (sensors, algorithms, alert devices) as well as deploy sensor networks in different countries. Grillo’s goal is to facilitate the creation of new community-driven EEWs around the world – and the global open source community can help us get there. At openeew.comyou can find starting points for deploying sensors, detecting earthquakes, and sending alerts.
Whether you want to contribute to the open source code, or lay the foundations for an OpenEEW in your community, you can have an impact. To get started please click here, and be sure to check out Grillo when you visit the Call for Code projects page.