In the future you’d better be sure your deodorant is applied, or your iPhone might notice. At least if the Department of Homeland Security’s Science & Technology Directorate (S&T) gets its wish.

According to an “InformationWeek” report (, S&T hopes to see prototype phones from Apple, LG, Qualcomm, and Samsung that can sense carbon monoxide and fire in a year or so.

S&T is spearheading a project called the Cell-All initiative. The goal is to equip your cell phone with a sensor capable of detecting deadly chemicals at minimal cost — to the manufacturer (a buck a sensor) and to your phone’s battery life.

“Our goal is to create a lightweight, cost-effective, power-efficient solution,” says Stephen Dennis, Cell-All’s program manager.

How would this wizardry work? Just as antivirus software bides its time in the background and springs to life when it spies suspicious activity, so Cell-All regularly sniffs the surrounding air for certain volatile chemical compounds. When a threat is sensed, for personal safety issues such as a chlorine gas leak, a warning is sounded. The user can choose a vibration, noise, text message, or phone call.

For catastrophes such as a sarin gas attack, details — including time, location, and the compound — are phoned home to an emergency operations center. While the first warning is beamed to individuals, the second warning works best with crowds. And that’s where the genius of Cell-All lies — in crowdsourcing human safety, says Dennis.