A Seismograph for the Raspberry Pi

Alasdair Allan
3 min readJul 18, 2017

The fallout from the smartphone war has left cheap affordable sensors in its wake. Sensors such as accelerometers, gyroscopes, magnetometers, and even cameras, are all cheap and readily available. But what if you want to sense something slightly more out of the ordinary? Enter the Raspberry Shake 4D now raising on Kickstarter, a seismograph as a Raspberry Pi HAT.

The Raspberry Shake 4D with its web-based user interface. (📷: OSOP)

One of the complaints I have about a lot of sensors sold into the maker market is that they’re uncalibrated. Most of the time this doesn’t matter that much. But, while things like solid state temperature and MEMS-based pressure and humidity sensors are usually pretty robust, other sensors — especially particulate or gas sensors — sometimes require periodic calibration, or even calibration before each and every use, to be even vaguely accurate. That can be a big problem for citizen scientists trying to use maker technology to make scientific measurements. But fortunately, it’s not a problem for the Raspberry Shake 4D. All of the Shake’s sensors are verified prior to shipping to ensure that their gain is within <10% of the nominal instrument response, and ongoing calibration should not be required. Although it could be optionally verified using something like the OSOP Calibration Table.

The Raspberry Shake 4D, with the geophone is visible towards the front left. (📷: OSOP)

The Raspberry Shake 4D is the second generation of the successful Raspberry Shake board that also raised on Kickstarter last year.

The new board adds three strong motion MEM accelerometers with the combined with the Earth microphone—the geophone—from the original Raspberry Shake to give the device a total of four recording channels.

The onboard geophone is designed to detect weak motion, while the accelerometers are present to detect strong motion.

Seismometers and accelerometers measure the Earth as it shakes, breaks and grumbles in slightly different ways. Seismometers, the geophone element of the 4D, are well purposed for measuring small-to-medium sized local earthquakes but go off-scale for larger local (<10km) and regional (<100 km) earthquakes. Accelerometers remain on-scale.

The new Raspberry Shake 4D also boasts improved sampling and transmission rates qualifying it as “Earthquake Early Warning Compatible,” with the data being delivered in standard miniSEED format.

Raspberry Shake 4D — Technical specification. (📹: Raspberry Shake)

Full technical specifications of the Raspberry Shake 4D are available, and all other details can be found on the project’s Kickstarter page. Pledges that include a Raspberry Shake 4D board and sensors start at $179 for early birds, rising to $209 for latecomers.