Sensors Detect Danger

By | November 28, 2009

Dispatches from a rapidly changing, rapidly improving

28, 2009

We’re running BATT’s every day during Thanksgiving week.

There’s an app for that?:

Could Form Chemical Detection Networks

Smartphones already stream YouTube videos and surf Facebook, but they might
also double as chemical sensors that can transmit alerts to first responders
about the release of dangerous chemicals.

A NASA scientist has unveiled a postage-stamp-sized sensor that can plug
into an iPhone and convert Apple’s beloved product into a mobile chemical

The tiny device can sniff out low amounts of ammonia, chlorine gas and
methane, and send alerts to other phones or computers over regular phone
networks or a Wi-Fi connection.

"Ours is the smallest in the world that can do complete sensing work,"
said Jing Li, a physical scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in California.
Her prior work gave the device a strong NASA pedigree that includes air
quality sensors tested on the International Space Station.

Li also hopes to someday see prototypes in the hands of firefighters or
other first responders, although Homeland Security has yet to decide on
such testing. Regular consumers won’t see the devices anytime soon as smartphone
accessories, but the sensors could sneak into phones down the road – and
they might just save some lives.

The age of the tricorder
is fast approaching. Handheld devices are great for texting, playing music,
gaming and — we’re seeing increasingly — putting critical information into
the right hands in real-time. Equipment that once could fill a suitcase (or
a room) now fits in the palm of your hand. Doctors, law enforcement, firefighters,
and first responders will soon be equipped in ways scarcely imaginable a decade

If you’re interested in learning more, or in helping to bring this rapidly
approaching future about, check out the Open Source Sensing initiative.

Live to see it!