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TERRA – affordable earthquake pre-warning system

"Terra" is the companion that seamlessly blends into your home, providing you with information, guidance and reassurance, enhancing your sense of security.

What it does

"Terra" is providing poor regions with information, guidance and reassurance, enhancing their sense of security in earthquake situations. "Terra" saves valuable time during an emergency situations where every second counts.

Your inspiration

Millions of people live in areas where the probability of earthquakes is part of their daily life. About 90% of the world's earthquakes occur along the basin of the Pacific Ocean, the so called ring of fire. A continuous series of plate movements are the trigger for 100.000 perceptible earthquakes per year. About 100 of them cause damage. Especially poor regions where infrastructure is not well prepared, are most vulnerable to these natural disasters.

How it works

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. "Terra" has two 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.

Design process

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. Leveraging sound design supported by light patterns, allowed us to create an impactful device, where its physical shape is merely designed to blend into the user's home. 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.

How it is different

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. "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. 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.

Future plans

The ideal future plan would be to start a crowdfunding campaign to spread the idea behind the "terra" concept.


We are proud to have won the Core77 Design Awards 2018, student notable in the consumer product award.

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