The Next Weapon Against Chemical Terrorism -- Your Cell Phone

May 13, 2010

I recently ran across an article on Information Week that at first I thought might be a joke, but it was dated April 12, not April 1.

I recently ran across an article on Information Week that at first I thought might be a joke, but it was dated April 12, not April 1. The article talked about how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) wants all the big cellphone makers to come up with a phone that can detect dangerous chemicals.  So, your smart phone, if it wasn't already doing enough, will essentially be able to smell. 

The Department of Homeland Security's Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) is looking to fund the research and wants Cooperative Research and Development Agreements with Apple, Qualcomm, Samsung and LG to develop a prototype. 

The phones would be able to use a low-cost sensor to detect dangerous chemicals like carbon monoxide. NASA and Qualcomm are working on the core technology with Rhevision Technology which apparently has developed chemical-sensing silicon. 

Proving S&T has a sense of humor -- the project is named Cell-All (presumably a take-off on smell all) and would coordinate mass air sampling through cell carriers. S&T says the goal would be to reduce false alarms with a form of what it is calling "crowd-sourcing human safety."

It is an innovative approach with a real "wow" factor, but I don't think it is going to take over the chemical security industry any time soon. And of course, there's a lot of development that has to go on for it to become a real viable resource. What is interesting is that it demonstrates the advances in sensor technology and S&T's commitment to advancing the technology. Sensors are getting more sophisticated and are becoming capable of giving us increasing amounts of information.

While some forms of sensors that can detect chemicals have been around for a while, we mainly use sensors in other areas of chemical security. Sophisticated sensors are used in surveillance cameras, security lighting, fencing, and many aspects of perimeter security. More research and development in sensors is good for all of us in the industry.  Sensors can give us many more eyes, ears and presumably in the future - noses.  The more effective tools we have the better we can do the job of keeping people and facilities safe.

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