Questions from a Potential New Customer

I’ve just started to investigate having my own seismometer and stumbled onto the Raspberry Pi website. I’m hoping someone here might recommend what product would be best for me.

I do not live in a tectonically active area. I live in southern Alberta, Canada. The nearest activity is in Washington and British Columbia related to the subduction zone there, and also the Intermontane Seismic Belt from Utah to western Montana. What magnitude of seismic events can I expect to detect from these areas, and what level from global events, say Japan or Chile?

I will admit to being a bit confused by the website, which talks about ‘boards’ and Raspberry Pi computers. In order to use, say, a Raspberry Shake 3D or 4D device, do I have to buy a Raspberry Pi computer, or install some board into my computer as it sounds? I’m not really going to be into that, especially since all I have are PC laptops.

Or do these seismometers just connect to your internet and display through that to your computer?

Many thanks for your advice and knowledge.


Hello Gary, welcome to the community!

We are always available to provide more information and clarify any doubts.

The specific magnitude of the events that you will be able to receive is difficult to properly estimate because it depends on many factors, such as terrain composition and geology, or the positioning of the Shake.

To give you a reference, I live in a non-seismically active area too, and I am able to detect M5.0+ from 800 km (500mi) away as well as M5.0+ from the other side of the world, near New Zealand, with good reception of M6.0+ from Japan, Asia and Europe.

Yes, our Raspberry Shakes work with two boards put together: one is our proprietary Shake board, that connects the seismic sensors to the Raspberry Pi board (computer) which elaborates them and uploads them on the internet.

You do not need any other device than the Raspberry Shake to start recording seismic events. Just plug in the LAN and power cables once you positioned it, and you are ready to go!

You will need a smartphone/tablet to visualize the data in real-time via our ShakeNet App (Mobile and Web Apps — Instructions on Setting Up Your Raspberry Shake) or a computer if you want to visualize/work with the data (Mobile and Web Apps — Instructions on Setting Up Your Raspberry Shake and How to visualize the waveforms in real time — Instructions on Setting Up Your Raspberry Shake).

Naturally, if you wanted to assemble the Shake yourself, then you will have to buy a Raspberry Pi board and mount everything together with our DIY kit. But, as you noticed, we have ready plug-and-play turnkey products that are ready to use.

If you need anything else, feel free to let me know. And thank you for the feedback on the website, we will take it into account for future updates.

Hi Stormchaser,

Thanks for your very, very helpful reply! I have a good idea now of what I could detect from here in Alberta. And now I understand that ‘turnkey’ means it is already assembled for me.

So, you’ve sold me and I’m anxious to order my seismometer. But, can you help me decide which one will suit me best, please?

I see that the 3D has geophones, where the 4D has accelerometers. And the 3D is about twice the price of the 4D. What would I be sacrificing by getting the less-expensive 4D model? Both obviously handle vertical waves, but do they both handle the horizontal components equally well? Do these instruments allow one to estimate the direction the waves are coming from, perhaps from surface waves?

To let you know a bit more about my application, I live about 30km outside a major city (Calgary) on an acreage, so it is quiet without any man-made seismic noise. Not many trees to impart motion to the ground, either, although it is very windy here. I have a walk-out basement and would install the seismometer on the concrete slab near the foundation wall cut into the hillside.

I am a retired oil & gas industry geophysicist, so I am something more than just a hobbyist and have a decent technical understanding. I’ll probably be someone who will use the instrument to near it’s capacity.

If you can help me pick my new ‘toy,’ I’ll order right away. I hope you don’t have any trouble shipping to Canada.

Best regards,

Gary Paukert

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Hello again Gary,

I’ve been in Canada some years ago, not your area, unfortunately, but the eastern portion. Beautiful landscapes all around!

It’s no problem at all, you’re welcome! Exactly, turnkey means that the package is already complete and ready to use. I am glad that my answer was so satisfying for you to decide to buy on the spot, I’m really honoured!

Sure! Actually, I had questions that were very similar to yours before buying my first Shake (I have three now… :joy: ). The RS4D (the less expensive of the two) is dedicated to the recording of strong motion events, so, if you lived in a more seismically active area, I would have suggested this one.

However, since you are at least 300 to 500 km away from the nearest most active sources, I would advise you (in lieu of your report of quietness at your location) to buy the RS3D.

Both of them have, as you have surmised, a vertical geophone to record the corresponding movements. Also, both of them can record horizontal vibrations in the East and North directions.

The difference lies in the fact that for the RS3D, the three sensors are all geophones, dedicated to capturing every aspect of fainter quakes, even from the other side of the world. The RS4D, instead, has three microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) accelerometers alongside the vertical geophone, and, as stated, is dedicated to recording strong-motion events.

The location you have in mind for the Shake is perfect, I wish I had something like that! Remember to have a power plug and a LAN cable that can reach down there and you will be set up. Also, remember to orientate the Shake towards the North, using the corresponding arrow on the instrument and a simple compass, so that you will be recording data in the correct directions.

There is no trouble for Canada, we ship worldwide.

Cheers from Scotland!

Ok, the 3D it is!

By the way, this is spectacular customer service.

I had the GREAT pleasure to live in Aberdeen for 19 months from 2005-2006. I so much enjoyed EVERYTHING there, from culture to history to architecture to…yes, even climate. It was a wonderful time. We lived on the river Dee just west of town in Peterculter.




We will be eagerly waiting for your first data to arrive!

Thank you again, I am here for this!

Ah, great place! I live on the western side where is rainier but less cold in Winter, but Scotland is literally a dreamland, so I’m glad that you have enjoyed it!

Welcome, Gary, from Calgary Varsity! I’m using a 3D in my suburban basement and having fun trying to spot subtle earthquakes in the Pacific Northwest, High Plains & Alaska over the background noise of suburban life. You will find many manmade frequencies which I can only guess at, as I’m not using a vault to lessen domestic noise effects. Most fun is trying to guess what is on the Canadian Pacific trains plying the prairies! Now that summer is almost here in Hailstorm Alley, I’m hoping to sense pending disaster and protect my apple trees from hail damage. While you wait for your RS, I suggest you open a Shakenet account and start to watch your fellow Shakers’ RS’s near & far, and if you have a tablet, you can follow strategically placed RS’s versus events far. & wide, and learn what to look for and how to visually decipher activity. Despite a geoscience background, I have found appreciating one’s RS requires a steep learning curve, but help is always available from RS for the spectrum of uber-techies to the naive neophytes like me.

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Hey there, Mrt1953! Thanks for the welcome. I’ve received word that my RS is to arrive on June 3rd, and am looking forward to it. I have to say that after I ordered it I kinda thought ‘well, is there really all that much that I’ll be able to do with it?’ So it’s great to hear the different applications you’ve discovered. I did see your station in northwest Calgary and only two others in the province, so ‘baby makes 4.’

I’ve been in four earthquakes in my life. I felt the big Borah Peak, Idaho M6.9 while living in Spokane in 1983. I felt one while eating breakfast in Deal, Kent, UK that may have actually been coal tunnels under the English Channel collapsing. I felt one whilst living in Bogota, Colombia. And I felt one from the frequent source near Lincoln, MT about two years ago while in a hotel in Libby, MT. That’s enough to get anyone interested.

Indeed, I downloaded the software and set up an account with Shakenet, so I’m ready to rumble when the hardware arrives.

It’s probably an easy guess to say you’ve got to be an oil and gas exploration geophysicist like I am. Retired, perhaps? I started out with Exxon and worked my way through mostly international work at Esso, Norcen, Crestar, Talisman, C&C Energia, Petroamerica, and Bankers Petroleum. I’m still doing a little work as one of the founders of a consultancy/exploration company. We have a small interest in a block in Indonesia, so it’s definitely more of an investment than a job. I have long had some weather instrumentation and webcams uploading to the internet, and a while back it sort of hit me ‘geez, I’m a geophysicist, wouldn’t it make sense for me to have a seismometer? I wonder if they have them for the hobbyist these days?’ And what do you know, there was Raspberry Shake.

I’m intrigued by your mention of hail. I guess you’re saying that a hailstorm will impart enough energy into the ground to create P-wave reflection/refraction energy or ground roll to show up on your RS. Any experience to support that yet, or just theory? I have to think about what kind of source that would be – all those hailstones hitting randomly – would they all just cancel each other out?

Thanks again for reaching out. I’m looking forward to playing with my new toy even more now!



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Gary, if you are like me, you will eagerly check your front stoop starting June 3rd and hope the courier delivers your new "toy’ and you will thus join the Shakers ASAP… Sorry you missed yesterday’s 6.1 Central Alaska quake c. 2400 km away / 61 km down, and effectively my first RS detection. As I’m running standalone, my data is not streaming, but I start & end each day downloading a twelve hour helicorder image and staring intensely for non-anthropogenic events in my seismic neighbourhood. My “Hail Hypothesis” is based on last June’s monster storm which massacred homes in NE Calgary, and I have to believe there would be some storm effects visible on the traces. As for my background, I’m a retired mudlogger / P. Geol. who lusted after a wind-up seismometer in a UK antique store forty years ago, and finally moved from “Watts’ App” to WhatsApp to became a Shaker…

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It’s supposed to arrive tomorrow!!

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