Affordable early earthquake warning system

Industrial design | Sound design | Interaction design
Educational project 2018 
Team partners: Patrick KrassnitzerFerdinand Aichriedler

Industrial design | Sound design | Interaction design
Educational project 2018 
Team partners: Patrick KrassnitzerFerdinand Aichriedler

User centered approach.

In order to work as user centered as possible, we interviewed several people from countries along the ring of fire, gathering insights about how they deal with earthquakes, their feelings and wishes in such cases and what could help them manage these extreme situations. Among different problems that people are dealing with, one common recurring issue was, that the lack of information can cause constant subliminal insecurity, panic or in the worst case, fatal decisions.

These findings built the foundations for our concept “terra”: A device that increases awareness and reduces panic in countries, vulnerable to earthquakes. Unfortunately many people living in these regions do not have a lot of financial resources, that is why the second major goal with “terra” was to make it available to everyone, regardless of their financial situation.

How does it work?

Earthquakes generate two kinds of waves, moving through the earth’s crust.
The non-destructive, higher velocity primary waves can be detected by seismographs up to 60 seconds before the destructive secondary waves arrive at the same spot. Primary waves can therefore be an early indicator if the incoming earthquake will be potentially destructive or not. This allows to warn people in advance.

Thanks to “terra”, on the one hand, valuable time can be saved in emergency situations where every second counts

On the other hand, to avoid panic, “terra” will also inform you in case of non-destructive incoming earthquakes.

“Terra” has two opposite modes, which differ through sound and light design.In case of an incoming non-destructive earthquake, a calming sound supported by a slowly pulsating light, advises the user to stay calm and helps to avoid panic. In the event of an incoming, potentially destructive earthquake, “terra” emits a strong alarming sound and an intrusive pulsating red light, letting the user know to take immediate action and seek shelter. This desired light effect is achieved with LED-rings shining through its translucent top housing, creating an unobtrusive and pleasant impression when the device is in standby.

Leveraging sound and light.

“Terra” has a dual speaker setup. The tweeter is aiming into the air and the speaker for lower frequencies to the wall. Making best use of sound properties, the higher pitched sounds can travel through the air, whereas deeper sounds spread through the walls, potentially informing neighbours or people in nearby rooms.

Reliable in every situation.

To ensure accurate function even in emergency situations, when internet or telephone networks can easily be overloaded, the device receives warnings via radio signals from official seismographic institutions, ensuring a reliable information source. The power supply is realized through common AA batteries, keeping the device independent in the event of a power failure.


“Terra” is mainly intended for poorer or secluded regions. To ensure affordability and to keep the production costs low, the product consists of three simple injection molded parts. Also, the inner parts are reduced to a minimum, to make the device as cost effective as possible.

Increasing awareness.

The instructive Packaging informs about the activation of the device and increases the awareness for earthquakes already by unpacking. It encourages the user to place it next to a save spot or an emergency exit and to create a game plan for the worst case. By making these decisions before the event, valuable seconds can be saved in an emergency.

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