Photo/IllutrationAn AI-based system is used to control long-period ground motions that strike a 2.4-meter-tall model building in an experiment. (Provided by NTT Facilities Inc.)

  • Photo/Illustraion

The world’s first artificial intelligence-based system to counteract the effects of earthquakes has been developed by telecommunications giant NTT's subsidiary NTT Facilities Inc.

The system, designed to control long-period ground motions during earthquakes, could prevent severe damage to high-rise buildings.

The new technology is designed to analyze the movements of buildings using AI and artificially shake them with motors to mitigate earthquake vibrations.

Long-period ground motions, which shake tall buildings slowly but drastically during quakes, are expected to cause considerable damage, for example, in a long-anticipated powerful earthquake along the Nankai Trough off Japan's Pacific coast.

One characteristic of long-period ground motions is that they travel long distances and more severely damage larger facilities.

While a building in Tokyo shook more than one meter from side to side during the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the movement also damaged the interior of a building in Osaka, several hundred kilometers from the epicenter.

In a 2003 Hokkaido earthquake, long-period ground motions triggered fires at large oil storage tanks.

Those type of shakes are difficult to deal with in terms of ordinary quake-proof measures, such as vibration damping methods and seismic isolation systems.

Conventional technologies to relieve long-period ground motions are supposed to absorb vibrations with hydraulic dampers, and many dampers have to be installed on beams supporting floors.

NTT Facilities’ new system only requires special equipment to be set up on some beams of a building to shake it horizontally with motors. When sensors detect vibrations of the building, the AI system will shake the building to counteract the ground movements and prevent the vibrations from spreading to higher floors.

The system can be introduced for already constructed buildings.

As different buildings are shaken in completely different ways in earthquakes, the AI technology repeatedly conducts simulations for various types of quakes based on their design drawings to better control seismic vibrations.

The system’s electric motors are equipped with dampers to absorb excessive vibrations, so the AI-based system will not damage the buildings accidentally due to malfunctioning.

According to NTT Facilities officials, the new technology cannot only curb earthquake vibrations to less than half the levels of conventional techniques but also lead to reduced costs, as about half of beams need to be outfitted with special devices.

The latest technology will be introduced at a building in the Kansai region shortly. It will be the world's first application of the AI-based, anti-quake technology, the officials said.