Breakthrough sensor to give our smartphones a sense of smell

Breakthrough sensor to give our smartphones a sense of smell
Sensors are the next big step for smartphones on the road to the Star Trek dream-device, the tricorder, and a new miniature “electronic nose” might have made that step. A new type of a MEMS vacuum pump, hundreds of times smaller than what’s been previously available, gives an "add-on sense of smell" for all sorts of mobile devices like spectrometers, but most excitingly it could end up in smartphones.

Today’s sensor for smell try to detect a chemical reaction for specific toxins and are only useful for spotting a certain type of smells/gas like carbon monoxide or smoke. This new “electronic nose”, a device developed by Honeywell for use in Defense Advanced Research Project Agency DARPA micro-drones, however, is truly multi-purpose. It’s a full-fledged mobile mass spectrometer that monitors all elements in a particular sample, and then you can run this sample against a database with common substances. This would allow you to have one tiny sensor detect everything - from air pollution to dangerous chemicals.

"What we have done is create the world's smallest vacuum pump -- a unique enabler for a whole new class of analytic instruments," Honeywell's ACS Labs principal research scientist Wei Yang said. "Many people have tried to downsize analytical instruments in recent years, but the vacuum pump was the last obstacle. Previously the smallest models were brick sized and consumed 100 watts, but ours is now penny sized and uses less than one watt."

To achieve that, Honeywell had to figure out how to make 100 000 tiny turbine blades on a centimeter-sized disk, and it somehow did.

"One thing we are very excited about is putting these into smartphones, essentially adding a sense of smell that can sense everything from toxic chemicals to pollen to general air quality," Yang said. "They could keep a cumulative record of exposure for every person carrying one, noting when and where a user was exposed."

Don’t expect the sensor to arrive in next year’s smartphones, though. It will take at least a couple of years, with expectations that this might land in device of the coming decade. But it sounds like a wait that many would want to cut short - the technology and its prospects are fascinating.

"In the coming decade, this innovation is going to usher in all types of very sophisticated instrumentation for handheld mobile platforms," Yang said.

source: EE Times



1. amilcarmz86

Posts: 95; Member since: Jul 09, 2013

This will be a huge innovation!


Posts: 269; Member since: Sep 09, 2013

Google Nose is about get real lol the April fool jokes were great XD

3. rihel_95

Posts: 305; Member since: Mar 21, 2012

just like Google Nose April fool joke!

4. WindowsiDroid

Posts: 138; Member since: Jul 22, 2013

Until 1 day our smartphones can talk to us like real humans, use to water plants, use as a hammer, laser sword, laser gun and many more innovations!

5. UdhaiyaPrasanth

Posts: 76; Member since: Sep 05, 2012

Imagine a virtual assistant saying, "Ufff.. What smell is that?" LOL! This is innovation at its craziest level!

6. PaulNotFromSweden

Posts: 55; Member since: Sep 16, 2011

Now this is impressive! Well done, Honeywell.

7. Deadeye37

Posts: 306; Member since: Jan 25, 2011

The first thing that a guy would analyze with this sensor on a smart phone would be their own farts. I know I would. I wonder if this that sensor could be used as a brethalizer?

8. softfurryanus

Posts: 232; Member since: Jul 09, 2013

... implications? I mean, it's cool and I'm all for it, but how would it actually improve things for me?

11. a_merryman

Posts: 749; Member since: Dec 14, 2011

In case someone used a biological or chemical weapon in the vicinity of you in a city, this would give you a near instant warning so that it could report to the authorities and so you could go get immediate medical help and tell them exactly what you were exposed to. It could also be used by you inputting things you're allergic to, and if you step into an area with a high pollen or ragweed concentration it could warn you and you could go somewhere where it is better. I'm sure it could also sense if a food had peanuts or some other type of food that you might be allergic to in your meal to add an extra level of safety and assurance.

9. SugarShockFrantic

Posts: 73; Member since: Jul 05, 2012

amazing yes...but why do our phones need to smell?

10. Airforce

Posts: 70; Member since: Jul 24, 2012


12. LikeMyself

Posts: 631; Member since: Sep 23, 2013

Yes! Now smell my popo and say it smells like all dumb fans who can't be fairplay to smartphone companies of any particular OS only because of lawsuits to get some free advertisement and lure them to mediocre comments of lagging Android, copying Android into iOS, not premium materials when at first featurephones were made up of plastic and other crap things lazy companies want to fool us to sell their crap smartphones for the price of laptops,ultrabooks.We can't sit and let them fool us ;)

13. theruleslawyer

Posts: 108; Member since: Apr 23, 2012

No more carrying my cell phone in my rear pocket I guess.....

16. htc_evo_3d

Posts: 84; Member since: Mar 11, 2013

Lol :P

14. clevername

Posts: 1436; Member since: Jul 11, 2008

finally a phone that can tell me if my breath stinks...or if I forgot to wear deodorant.

15. bugsbunny00

Posts: 2266; Member since: Jun 07, 2013

well said,you can do that if you want,does your breath stinks?!lol.

17. psyllee

Posts: 1; Member since: Nov 11, 2013

This really does seem like an invasion of privacy. Homeland security will be all over this, as will the ATF. Don't light up that splif, you'll get a knock in/on your door.

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