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Future iPhones to add sense of smell?


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.

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