SK Telecom Builds, Deploys a Network of Low-Cost Plug-In IoT Earthquake Sensors for the KMA

Designed to supplement data from 338 permanent monitoring stations, the network of 10,000+ plug-in sensors could improve earthquake alerts.

Researchers from SK Telecom, the Korea Meteorological Administration (KMA), and Kyungpook National University have partnered on a high-accuracy, portable, Internet of Things (IoT) earthquake sensor — and plan to have a network of over 10,000 sensors installed throughout South Korea by the end of the year.

Like many disaster warnings, the earlier you are alerted to an impending earthquake the better the outcome. The KMA currently uses a network of 338 sensors dotted around South Korea to detect the earlier P-waves ahead of the more damaging S-waves — but with a 7- to 25-second gap between the two, time is critical. Warning times had been brought down from 50 second to 19 seconds following an earthquake in Pohang in 2017, and now a new network of smaller, cheaper, and more easily-deployed sensors could bring it down still further while increasing the volume and quality of data available.

"If a 5.0 magnitude earthquake strikes Pohang, differences in the speed and intensity of the seismic waves call for disparate responses from people in Daegu, which is 50km away, and people in Daejeon, which is 150km away. That requires more density and precision in seismic monitoring," Professor Kwon Yeong-woo told local news outlet Hankyoreh.

The small, low-cost sensors developed by SK Telecom are designed to plug into a wall socket and transmit their data wirelessly. Their accuracy as independent devices is, the KMA has admitted, not the same as the large seismic monitoring equipment installed in the 338 permanent stations around the nation — but they make up for it in aggregate, with accuracy improved by instructing users to install them only on sockets on load-bearing concrete walls on their building's first floor.

The sensors are to be installed at 3,000 SK Telecom mobile base stations and retail outlets around the nation, then expanded to cover a further 8,000 other sites including police boxes and schools. More information is available on the Hankyoreh website.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire: freelance@halfacree.co.uk.
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