Nowadays we use GPS so frequently that we may have forgotten about Earth’s magnetic field. However, ships, aircraft and people who enjoy Letterboxing still carry a compass. NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) have created an app called CrowdMag to see if a mobile phone’s magnetometer can be used to help gather geomagnetic data. Of course signals can be problematic with magnetic fields, with interruptions from man-made sources like transformers, power lines and cars; that’s where crowdsourcing comes in handy. By gathering data from a large group of people NCEI is hoping to reduce noise in the data.
Here are the specific goals for the project, according to NCEI:
- Create models of Earth’s time changing magnetic field by combining crowdsourced magnetic data with data collected by ships, aircrafts and satellites.
- Map local magnetic noise sources (for e.g. power transformer and iron pipes) to improve accuracy of the magnetic navigation systems.
You may be wondering about your privacy since the project is dealing with location, but the data is collected anonymously without personal identifiable information. Some of the perks of the app include mapped results from other users, a magnetic calculator, a compass and the ability to compare your values to the World Magnetic Model (WMM). The app has only been available a few months, but one user who travels the world frequently has already commented on the convenience of knowing magnetic variation. So, if you have the same curiosity about geomagnetic data you should join this project—available for IOS and Android.