To help Ukraine, Google launches Air Raid Alerts system for Android

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Enlarge / Google’s Doodle of Ukraine Independence Day 2018.

Smartphone-based air raid warnings are one of the many horrific facts of life in Ukraine right now. While the Ukrainian government has an air raid warning system that currently runs through a third-party app, Google is taking on the task of building an “air raid warning system” right into Android. The company explained the decision on the Google blog:

Tragically, millions of people in Ukraine are now relying on air raid warnings to try and escape to safety. At the request and with the help of the Ukrainian government, we have started rolling out a fast air raid warning system for Android phones in Ukraine. This work complements the country’s existing air raid warning systems and is based on alerts already submitted by the Ukrainian government.

Google is rolling out the feature through Google Play Services, which means it should work for almost any Android phone. While Android OS updates are known to only roll out to a single-digit percentage of users in a year, Google Play Services are updated through the Play Store, so an update comes out for everyone as soon as their phone checks for app updates.

Android VP of Engineering Dave Burke announced The new feature on Twitter says the alerts will use the same low-latency alert system that the Android team developed for Android’s earthquake detection. While the earthquake detection system can generate its own earthquake alert by crowdsourcing the accelerometer data from millions of Android phones, Google doesn’t detect airstrikes. Instead, the company is currently building a client for the government’s warning system.

Burke says: “The system will start rolling out today and will be rolled out to all Android phones in Ukraine over the next few days [solution] shortly.”


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