General Information

Mail: University of Houston
Cullen College of Engineering
E421 Engineering Bldg 2, 4722 Calhoun Rd, Houston, TX 77204-4007
Map & Driving Directions (includes parking information)
Email: info [at] egr [dot] uh [dot] edu


University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering


Smartphone-based Early Warning Systems for Earthquakes Can Save Lives: BYU Radio Interviews UH Engineer

Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version


Audrey Grayson

After a powerful 7.8 earthquake shook the nation of Nepal last Saturday, many media outlets around the world are asking whether anything could have been done to save some of the nearly 4,000 lives who were lost because of the quake.

Julie Rose, host of the “Top of Mind” show on BYU Radio and former NPR reporter, asked this very question to Cullen College professor Craig Glennie on April 27.

Glennie, assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, published a study in the April 10 issue of the AAAS journal Science Advances that found smartphones and other personal electronic devices could function as early warning systems for large earthquakes. The research was a collaboration among scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey, California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the University of Houston, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and Carnegie Mellon University-Silicon Valley, and included support from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

Rose invited Glennie onto her radio program to discuss whether smartphone-based early warning systems for earthquakes might serve as a viable alternative to more sophisticated early warning systems for earthquakes, which can cost millions of dollars to implement. Glennie said he believes the technology could serve regions of the world that cannot afford higher quality but more expensive conventional earthquake early warning systems.

While the smartphone-based system Glennie and his collaborators developed is less accurate than conventional early warning systems for earthquakes, Glennie said that both technologies provide about the same amount of early warning – 20 to 25 seconds, to be exact.

“Even with most sophisticated warning systems, we probably could have only given the people of Katmandu about 20 to 25 seconds of prior warning about the earthquake,” Glennie said.

While 25 seconds may not seem like a very long time to prepare for a quake, it is in many cases enough time to make the difference between life and death. For instance, drivers can pull off the road, people inside of buildings can stand beneath a doorway and a surgeon operating on a patient can retract the scalpel, Glennie added.

To read more about Glennie’s smartphone-based early warning detection system for earthquakes, please visit

To listen to the full episode of “Top of Mind with Julie Rose,” please visit:





Related News Stories

Environmental Graduate Student Wins Highest ACS Honor

Chong Dai is using chemistry to clean up the environment

Chong Dai, Ph.D. candidate in environmental engineering at the Cullen College of Engineering, has won the American Chemical Society (ACS) Environmental Chemistry Graduate Student Award. The prestigious honor is bestowed on 25 students, at most, annually.

The award recognizes graduate students working in areas related to environmental chemistry. That’s Dai’s passion. No doubt the award committee saw it.

Academia, Industry Collaborate on Solutions to Neural Disease, Injury

Jose Luis Contreras-Vidal, Hugh Roy and Lillie Cranz Cullen University Professor of electrical and computer engineering, will head the new NSF-funded BRAIN Center

Neurological disorders like Parkinson’s, the aftermath of stroke, limb loss and paralysis significantly diminish the length and quality of life – affecting about one in six people worldwide. But a growing number of biomedical innovations, driven in large part by an aging population dealing with debilitating health issues, are improving both cognitive and motor function.