Ariel Schwartz

Homeland Security Developing Smartphone Tech That Sniffs Deadly Chemicals

by , 04/12/10

sustainable design, green design, green gadget, green technology, design for health, chemicals, sensor, iphone

Recently we reported that U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Cell-All had developed a chemical-sniffing iPhone add-on that can potentially offer early information on a chemical attack, confirm suspicions of methane emissions, and give users information about the chemicals present in their everyday environments. Now Cell-All has announced that it wants to integrate its technology directly into smartphones — much like GPS sensors, cameras, and MP3 players are embedded into our phones. The stamp-sized chemical sensor can sniff small amounts of chemicals like methane, ammonia, and chlorine gas.

sustainable design, green design, green gadget, green technology, design for health, chemicals, sensor, iphone

Imagine this: a terrorist is carrying hazardous chemicals through a train station. However thanks to new technology, everyone standing in the station has smartphones equipped with chemical-sniffing sensors. As soon as one person’s chemical sensor is triggered, their cell phone automatically alerts the police within 60 seconds, saving everyone in sight from a chemical attack. Such a scenario is closer to becoming reality than you might think thanks to Cell-All‘s chemical-sniffing iPhone chip.

The technology is a long way from full-on commercialization, but Homeland Security is working on cooperative research and development agreements with Qualcomm, LG, Apple and Samsung — four major cell phone manufacturers. If all goes well, 40 prototypes will be ready within the year, including one that sniffs carbon monoxide and fire. And eventually, Cell-All envisions that we will have “a chemical sensor in every cell phone in every pocket, purse, or belt holster.”

+ Department of Homeland Security

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1 Comment

  1. hckr4evr April 13, 2010 at 3:23 am

    I wonder how long it will take before the data from those phones is used against their owners and perhaps even those in surrounding areas. For example, imagine Johnny, a recreational weed smoker, lighting up a joint and being busted for possession a few minutes later. Or Sue, who happens to be diagnosed with lung cancer, but is denied coverage by her health insurance company because the environment she works in is smoke laden, even though she doesn’t smoke cigarettes.

    Such monitoring technology can indeed be useful and even life-saving, but a person’s relative right to privacy can be violated very easily.

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