New Types of Sensors In Future Mobile Phones: Altitude, Emotion and More

pmiPhone boardtopBIGiPhone teardown image from Viaforensics

The New York Times' Nick Bilton spoke with Benedetto Vigna, general manager of the MEMS division of STMicroelectronics, about what kinds of sensors we might be seeing in the next generation of mobile phones.

The iPhone presently uses a number of sensors such as GPS, accelerometer, gyroscope, and digital compass. These sensors have found to be quite useful in various social applications and games.

The next generation of sensors could include additional location providing ones, such as an altimeter:

Mr. Vigna said the next smartphones would have altimeter sensors that would be able to detect your elevation. “These sensors will tell people what floor they are on in a building, or could be used to more precisely determine where you are in relation to your friends on a location-based service,” he said.

Other possibilities include heart monitors, perspiration/mood sensors, and temperature/humidity sensors. The new sensors could even be used in games to determine excitement or emotion during gameplay.

Meanwhile, a combination of factors (phone position, and other patterns) could be used to identify the user for security purposes.

After you use a new phone for a short period of time, it will start to learn your patterns and automatically lock or unlock the phone accordingly. This could be used for more secure banking too.

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Top Rated Comments

MrWillie Avatar
170 months ago
I know some folks have been waiting for the day they can take their temperature rectally with their iphone.

They'll be so please about this news!

Well there is a few people on MR that I would like to take their Android phones and...:)


But seriously, think about it. Detecting emotions/mood. How cool. So when the Mrs is feeling bitchy, her phone sends you an alert and you know to put in some OT at the office.
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
mcrain Avatar
170 months ago
Automatic airplane mode?
Score: 3 Votes (Like | Disagree)
rlreif Avatar
170 months ago
Just be sure to set it to 29.92"Hg! :D

in a non pressurized cabin, such as a cesna or helicopter, yes, on a commercial flight, no... it would read somewhere around 7000 ft the whole time.


the one area where my Garmin Rino still beats my iphone 4 is the fact that it has an altimeter... for detailed tracking of a day skiing, or hiking in the mountains that sensor is necessary as GPS isnt great for measuring precise small changes in elevation/altitude
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kdarling Avatar
170 months ago
Also even if it had a pressure senor what pilot in their right mind would want to use a iPhone/iPad as an altimeter. It wouldn't have the required accuracy, it couldn't be calibrated and the FAA wouldn't certify it.

An electronic sensor, being able to detect changes of two feet, is far more accurate than most mechanical altimeters.

They could of course be easily calibrated in software.

However, yes, it would take time to get certified.

Not only that, but I've never seen a pressure altimeter that was accurate to within 25 feet, much less 10 or 5 feet.

The FAA requires altimeters to be bench-certified as accurate within 20 feet up to a thousand feet. See Appendix E 14 CFR 43.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
wizard Avatar
170 months ago
In some ways 75% is a stretch, but yeah iPhone is close.

How is it NOT already a tricorder? It already does about 75% of what tricorders were shown doing. In fact, it does way more than they were ever shown to do.
It certainly has more computational horse power than was imagined back then. However it comes up short in a number of ways. For one no gas analyst, or radiation hazard detection. Nothing like a spectrometer either.

However some of this stuff is not far off in being pocketable. There are a number of lab on a chip techniques being worked on right now. So 75% is not far off at all.

Your point is well taken, as some one that was a big fan of star treck I marvel at how far we have come in many ways. Certainly the cell phone has now eclipsed the communicator and has adopted many tricoder features. The future looks bright as far as this reality goes. Now if we could only get an administration in Washington that has a clue about space technology. It has been at least 15 years since we have had a rational plan for space coming out of washington. Really pathetic when you think about it.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Doctor Q Avatar
170 months ago
I can think of dozens of uses for a built-in lie detector.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)