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April 22, 2010

The mobile phone that breathes

Posted: 12:16 PM ET

Researchers at Intel Labs in Berkeley, California, have designed a prototype mobile phone that slurps up air and spits out pollution measurements.

The researchers eventually hope to make everyone who carries a phone into a mobile air quality monitor, to supplement the 4,000 stationary monitors used by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state partners.

It's the idea of "citizen science" taken to a new extreme.

The pollution readings would be useful for several reasons, said Allison Woodruff, a research scientist at Intel.

First, they would give regulators a sense of air quality trouble spots that might be missed by government monitors, which tend to have significant distances between them that millions of walking monitors could fill.

The moving air sensors also would enable a new level of social science, she said. If you wanted to learn more about asthma, for instance, you could look at the air quality experienced by asthma sufferers and see if that had any impact.

Currently, such evaluations aren't really possible, she said.

The measurements would be tied to a person's GPS location to create a real-time map of air quality readings. That info could be available to everyone on an app or a website, the researchers said.

The prototype air-quality phone developed by Woodruff and Alan Mainwaring is a bit clunky for now. It has big holes in its case, to let air in.  The sensors that pick up carbon monoxide, ozone and nitrogen oxide aren't small enough to let the phone fit in most pockets. That might be just as well, since the researchers aren't sure what would happen to the pollution measurements if a phone went inside a purse or pocket.

Woodruff said it might be equipped with light sensors that would tell it to stop taking and uploading measurements if it was inside a pocket.

But, they said, air quality sensors are getting better and smaller. They are confident the kinks will get worked out, and that this idea will make the air healthier. They hope their pollution-tracking phone will become reality in a matter of years.

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Filed under: environment • mobile phones

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Sency   April 22nd, 2010 4:15 pm ET

I have scene many interesting mobile phones – this one may take the cake

Franko   April 22nd, 2010 4:40 pm ET

The phone, detecting that you smell bad, could deliver a deodorant advertising, and nearest purchase location - If you do not reduce your smell, update your facebook and tweet your foursquare location.

eternity   April 22nd, 2010 9:39 pm ET

drug dealers probably won't be carrying around these types of phones (sniff 'n for drugs!)

Abdul Sami Abbasi   April 23rd, 2010 5:45 am ET

Wonderful idea, I am fascinated by the novel application of handheld that will go a long way not only monitoring our environment by Government agencies but, individuals will have choice of least polluted areas in real time to move around. Man is gradually evolving built-in mechanism with the intelligent use of mobile phone for the benefit of society .

lame   April 23rd, 2010 9:54 am ET

seems like a really lame excuse for a phone. Ismell

Franko   April 23rd, 2010 2:35 pm ET

Just a smoke detector monitoring the number of cigarettes you smoke ?
Your exhalations, CO2 footprint, for Carbon tax and health insurance
Exceed your CO2 quota and the Environmental Protection Agency, UN-IPCC will declare you a threat to climate and Mother Gaia - Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms will send you to a FEMA Camp.

Frank in Pensacola, FL   April 24th, 2010 7:31 am ET

Add in the ability to detect biohazards and you've got two premium phone lines that are winners.

Franko   April 24th, 2010 11:49 pm ET

For public safety, - a Thz camera is a must.
Upload a see through clothing picture, of a suspected terrorist, to NSA

Sardar Mohkim Khan   April 26th, 2010 2:22 am ET

Wow- I bet this one will be pretty useful, especially for people who are very allergic/prone to air pollution. If this technology can be embedded in more modern designs it would be really worth the additions

Choco-Tan   April 26th, 2010 7:02 pm ET

If we had this installed in showers it could tell you if your cleaning yourself good enough.... Or good for police officers, or even airports. Yay! Less terrorists attacks!

Ikenna Ugwu-warri,Nigeria   April 27th, 2010 6:13 am ET

brilliant! the way people think stirs up the sense of usefulness in me. somehow I have a feeling immigration officers worldwide should get ready to plunge into unRELENTING usefulness.

patoo-wafi   April 27th, 2010 6:21 am ET

as we recover from the global ECONOMIC MELT-DOWN;we should prepare towards global CITIES-POPULATION MELT-DOWN(relocation)!

jojo   April 27th, 2010 7:50 am ET

Nice idea...could give some interesting scientific results if used on a scale large enough...I just hope it doesn't differentiate between tobacco smoke and cannabis...or at least it has a non-cannabis sniffing switch or something to that effect.... 😉 just a thought...gotta think ahead, ya know.

Good Afternoon! Interesting News: There’s a Mobile Phone that Breathes.. « The Official Smarthome Blog – All Things Home Automation   April 29th, 2010 3:25 pm ET

[...] Read More at [...]

Intel designs a breathing Mobile Phone | The Geek Deck   April 30th, 2010 8:01 am ET

[...] CNN Technology News Environment, Intel, [...]

Andres Maruri   May 8th, 2010 11:13 am ET

This would be a good idea if it were used as a game. People would realize how bad pollution is in certain areas where they live and start complaining more about it.

We are told there is pollution where we live but unless we see proof, like a phone telling us the air pollution, noone will do anything about it.

kawasaki250f   May 9th, 2010 11:07 pm ET

thats so cool.

C. Mike   May 11th, 2010 1:27 pm ET

why don't they just have it take readings while its speaker is in use? no one talks on the phone while its in their pocket.

snuff   May 11th, 2010 9:20 pm ET

Great... another useless gadget that wastes battery power.

Hayden Robertson   June 10th, 2010 1:55 pm ET

I am always on the lookout for new models of Nokia phone and also iPhone.'`:

Ewan Matthews   July 26th, 2010 1:21 pm ET

Nokia always makes the coolest mobile phone.*,:

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I have noticed a large number of new motorola phones, this is very good but I prefer this:

Mary Griffin   September 12th, 2010 1:45 pm ET

i often use my mobile phone compared to my netbooks-"*

LED Grow Light    October 13th, 2010 5:16 am ET

the best mobile phones should have high resolution cameras and some netbook functionality.'~

Why phones need to know where you are | New Technology   October 20th, 2010 10:42 am ET

[...] only a prototype at this point, but researchers at Intel Labs in Berkeley, California, have installed air pollution detectors on a mobile phone in the hope that people could log air quality measurements as they move about the Bay Area. The [...]

Techno Convoy » Blog Archive » Why phones need to know where you are   October 21st, 2010 1:26 pm ET

[...] only a prototype at this point, but researchers at Intel Labs in Berkeley, California, have installed air pollution detectors on a mobile phone in the hope that people could log air quality measurements as they move about the Bay Area. The [...]

Migraine Treatment :   October 24th, 2010 4:10 pm ET

mobile phones are getting cheaper and cheaper, i just hope that they add more features into it.*.

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You have to love "citizen science" This is another great Idea that would help out everyone. I think at first some of the reading
would shock us."Major Wake up Call". But it's another example of citizens doing their part.

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