Arduino Seismic Activity Monitor - Ethernet Shield




Have you ever wanted to impress your friends by saying something crazy like, "I think there's going to be an earthquake soon" moments before an earthquake hits?

Or do you just want some warning, a few seconds that could save your life.

This project will allow you to hook up a seismic sensor to a router through the Ethernet shield and host a webpage off of the SD card on the shield. This webpage will then display information about the seismic sensor and the history of its activity.
All the data for the seismic sensor is stored in a Pachube feed and then displayed on the webpage as several graphs.

You will need:

  -  Arduino
        - Preferably an Arduino with large memory, I used the Arduino Mega 2560
        - You can use one with less memory, you just might have to remove some stuff from the sketch
  - Ethernet Shield
  - Micro SD Card
  - Pachube account: 

  - Piezoelectric Sensor
  - Breadboard
  - Resistors, Capacitors, Diode
        - Check the section on building the circuit for more details on values
  - 5 x Op-Amps - Single-supply compatible
        - or you can build it with dual supplies, whatever floats your boat :p
        - You can get away with using only 3 - 4 op amps, the rest I use is for amplification
  - Solid Wire of course!

I assume you already have:
  - Router
  - Computer
        - Would be pretty magical to surf the net without these
  - Extra Ethernet cable
  - USB cable for the arduino
  - Un-destroyed analog pin on your arduino

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Step 1: The Circuit - Sensor

The sensor I used to capture seismic vibrations is a Piezo Film vibra-tab.
They come with an optional weight attached to the end, but I found that the weight was not enough.

The frequency of earthquakes is between 1 - 20 Hz, but with even the heaviest weight the resonant frequency was in the KHz.
So to reduce the resonant frequency and get some useful signals, I took some  washers slapped them on a bolt and some nuts and experimented. I used a Oscilloscope with FFT and changed the weight on the tip of the film until frequencies of around 40Hz were the largest. If you don't own an oscilloscope, just add a little weight and then hit the sensor. It should flop around for about half a second to a second before coming to rest.

Once you have the sensor tuned to the right frequency, place it in your breadboard at one end, you're going to need the space for the rest of the circuit.
As you can see from the picture, I taped down the base of the sensor. This is because the leads on the piezo film is flat, and tends to be loose inside the breadboard, so any vibrations tend to get lost in the movement of the leads.
Taping it so that the base can't move will ensure that your data is accurate!

Step 2: The Circuit - Charge Amp

Since a Piezoelectric Film isn't just a simple signal source, some circuitry is required to accurately and predictably measure the sensor's output.

 A Charge Amp takes the charge across a capacitor and translates it into a voltage. If you know your electronics you can see that it is essentially an integrator, which prevents the charge across the Piezo film, which acts like a capacitor, from discharging quickly.
This allows you to turn it into a stable voltage signal.

I used an LM324N, a quad op amp, to create the charge amp portion of the circuit.
If you follow the schematic on the last picture, you should get an AC signal at the output floating on 2.5Vdc [ If you are using a 5 volt supply ]

Step 3: The Circuit - Shaping the Signal

The signal coming out of the charge amp section is an AC wave floating on 2.5Vdc. Since the amplitude of the wave is the same size when it swings to the positive end as the negative end, we can get more use from the ADC in the Arduino by amplifying only the positive waves.

We can do this by chopping off the bottom half of the wave with a diode and biasing it so that the diode is just-just turned on.
Now you have a waveform sitting on 0Vdc with only the positive peaks of the signal being read by the ADC.
I used a small signal, low voltage drop diode and then forward biased it with 0.45V.

You can stop here or further amplify the circuit, but that is completely up to you.

For this instructable I will stop here, since it isn't really meant to be an instructable on designing single supply amplifiers :p
This PDF from Texas Instruments can give you a good idea how to build them:

Step 4: Hookan It Up

This step is probably the simplest - hooking up the circuit to the Arduino.

  -  You need a wire from the Vcc portion on your breadboard to the 5V slot on your Arduino
  -  A wire from the ground line on your breadboard to the GND pin on the Arduino
  -  The output, either of the second stage or optional amplification stage, should be connected to one of the analog input pins

Next: Programming!

Step 5: Programming - Arduino Side

The programming was probably the heftiest portion of this project, and hopefully my liberal amount of commenting will help make it clear how the program works.

First, a flowchart on how the program operates is shown in the first three pictures.

The program has been provided as well for download, just enter your own Pachube information and you are off to the races!

Libraries you may need:

#include <SPI.h>
#include <SdFat.h>
#include <SdFatUtil.h>
#include <Ethernet.h>
#include <EthernetDHCP.h>

Google for any you are missing, they are generally the first result if you include "Arduino" in your search

Step 6: Programming - HTML Side

For the html files you want to place on the SD card, you only really need "index.htm"
The rest are just filler.

Attached is what my site looks like and the html for it.
In "index.htm" you will find the code for the buttons I have there.

To make a button you just need to include in you website:

<form METHOD=get action="/">
<input type=hidden name=cmd value=gettime>
<input type=submit value="Text on Button">

This will create a form button which, when clicked, will send a GET command to your Arduino.
With the button I have here, the Arduino will receive

"GET /?cmd=gettime HTTP1.1/0"

As you can see, the NAME value get's inserted right after the "?"; the VALUE value is what is after the "="
The third line tells you what the button does and looks like, with the TYPE determining how it reacts to being pushed, and the VALUE showing up as text on the button.

The ACTION portion on the front line is a little stranger.
With the "/" in there, the button will send "/?cmd" to the arduino, but you could type in "" in there, and the button will attempt to send "/?cmd" to google's servers.

Step 7: Fini

Well, if you were able to follow these steps, you will now have a seismic activity monitor that you can place anywhere you'd like.
That is, as long as it is near a reliable power source and a router!

I hope that some of you will brave this project,

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    40 Discussions


    Question 1 year ago on Step 1

    Hi Veedo: Have you done anthing more with the vibration detector. I would like to see data.



    3 years ago


    What version of arduino ide you use to upload the sketch?i use the latest one and i cannot upload it.i got back lot of errors such as Client has rename it to EthernetClient and more.exit status 1

    2 replies
    Christian RayDChristian RayD

    Reply 2 years ago

    sir i when i download the ethernetdhcp.h i got the error #include <wiring.h> and then i change the ethernetdhcp.h to ethernetclient.h but i got the error Client -_- dont know what to do now -_-

    Christian RayD

    2 years ago

    anyone ready for my question herE? hahaha


    3 years ago

    This may be what I was looking for, but I may be in a little over my head-- I was hoping to make a system to see whether or not certain freight trains are shaking our office building more than others, so need it to be able to display seismic activity when a motion-activated camera records passing trains.


    Reply 3 years ago

    Same question about Arduino Code.


    3 years ago

    Since you didn't supply the Piezo device, here it is:


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Exactly what I've been looking for, however, with more sensors you should be able to triangulate and work out the source of disturbances. I'm thinking this could be used for intruder detection if calibrated correctly? Perhaps you could have a map of your property that gets painted red wherever vibrations are detected.. Hmm..

    Cool. Why did you not use the SW-180 vibration sensor? Or the ADXL335 Accelerometer? Thanks.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    I saw this article too late. very cool & smart system.

    also, you're a good web designer. ;) very easy access to get info via HTTP Server.

    Would you mind if I introduce this article to our collegue & our online collection site?


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I'm not very familiar with the analog stuff, but would it be difficult to adjust the sensor to detect when someone, say, walks on a deck?

    The walkway to my front door is a wood deck of 2x4s and I've been trying to think of a way to illuninate it as people walk across it.

    3 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    not difficult at all
    All you would have to do is remove some weight from the sensor and change the caps in the charge amp section to lower values to amplify higher frequencies


    5 years ago on Introduction


    I would like to know how sensitive is your sensor and if it will be able to detect vibrations as low as 2 on the richter scale?


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Any online electronics retailer will carry them, Digikey is popular in north america but I'm sure you can find something similar in every country