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OPLIN 4cast #330: Phones might be smarter than you think

Posted in 4cast

brainWe seem to have a posting about smartphones once every six weeks or so, which is probably a good indication of how much that topic dominates tech news these days. Smartphones are great for mobile Internet and for other forms of communication, even phone calls (believe it or not). But smartphones are also increasingly becoming key components of the Internet of things, because they contain many sensors that the smartphone owner may only occasionally use, but are continuously gathering data that can be very handy when used for purposes that you may not have considered.

  • Smartphone innovation: Where we’re going next (CNET/Jessica Dolcourt) “You may have never given two thoughts to the sensors that come on your smartphone. They don’t mind. They’re still there anyway, computing data on your phone’s movement and speed, rotation, and lighting conditions. These under-appreciated components – the gyroscope, accelerometer, magnetometer, and so forth – are starting to get more friends in the neighborhood.”
  • ShutterBox turns your Android phone into a sophisticated, sensor-laden remote camera trigger (TechCrunch/Darrell Etherington) “The ShutterBox is an extension of that tech, which features a hot shoe-mounted receiver box [attached to a camera] that communicates wirelessly with your Android smartphone via Bluetooth. It uses the phone’s built-in sensors for triggering automatic shutter activation, including light sensors for lightning, as well as motion detection for capturing wildlife or other movement-based events.”
  • New smartphone camera could have system to sense depth perception (Tribune-Review/Troy Wolverton) “But because of their small size and, in some cases, high resolution, the new cameras could be used in a wide range of other applications. In the future, they could be employed in more precise versions of Microsoft’s Kinect, the gesture-sensing game controller; in cars as collision-preventing backup cameras; as identification systems that can precisely distinguish individual faces; and in a kind of three-dimensional scanner for 3-D printing.”
  • Sensors in smartphones: Galaxy S4 adds pressure, temperature, and humidity sensors (Singularity Hub/Jason Dorrier) “Why couldn’t these sensors do for weather what Google Maps does for traffic? As readers likely know, Google strips smartphone GPS data of personal information, assembles it, and sends it back to users as real-time traffic estimates. The results are increasingly accurate traffic forecasts and route time estimates–a serious improvement on chopper reports from the local radio station. Using millions of smartphone data points, developers could knock out apps rendering detailed heat, humidity, and pressure maps and bundle them into weather apps.”

MEMS fact:
Sales of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS), which is another way to say “sensors,” saw double-digit growth last year, largely because of their use in mobile phones and tablets.