In the near future smartphones could be used to detect all manner of environmental factors
Image credit: LDprod / Shutterstock.com
Over the last few years, wearable technology has become an integral part of our lives. Ongoing advancements have reduced computer hardware and electronic components to a large extent, making them easily worn as jewellery and accessories or to be integrated into garments.
A new range of smart watches called the Apple Watch has become the forefront of this latest innovation. While this iPhone accessory is too recent to be considered either a success or failure, it has definitely focused consumers’ attention on the notion of wearable technology.
Google Glass is yet another latest technology that apparently failed to hold consumers’ interest; however, competing headset technologies such as the HoloLens augmented-reality device from Microsoft may revive the concept of computing power integrated into eyewear.
An Array of Environmental Sensors on Your Wrist
Wearable technology is not a novel idea as digital wristwatches including mechanical timepieces have been popular for many years. However, today’s digital revolution along with continuing improvements in microelectronics is set to redefine different types of wearable technologies, just like the ubiquitous smartphone. Nonetheless, the use of novel sensor systems in these wearable devices is one interesting development which has not attracted much attention.
Smartphones are adorned with a remarkable range of sensors to obtain different kinds of information, from the accurate position of the device, through to global positioning system (GPS), to the angle at which it is being held, or even the distance to the person utilizing the device. Smartphones are becoming important devices that collect different types of information, instead of simply displaying the data obtained elsewhere.
In wearables as well as smartphone markets, a key driving force is the availability of next-generation sensors. Gadgets on health and fitness are usually integrated into inconspicuous wristbands and may comprise positioning sensors, movement sensors, heart rate monitors, and other input devices to determine the energy utilized and record the performance.
Air Quality Monitoring
Additional advancement in wearable devices is projected to be the inclusion of environmental sensors to track atmospheric factors such as air quality. Increasing concerns about the quality of processed indoor air and growing awareness of pollution have focussed attention towards this technology. This development can be regarded as an extension of the popular trend for weather monitoring stations at the domestic level.
Moreover, with new advancements in sensor technology, a new range of atmospheric detector can be easily integrated into modern platforms such as fitness bands, watches, etc. SGX Sensortech specializes in developing novel solid state gas detection technology and also designs an extensive range of sensors and monitors which are increasingly being used in portable systems.
While contemporary solid state and micro electro mechanical system (MEMS) sensors are capable of providing a wide range of detection systems, only a few gases lend themselves to this kind of detector. Sensors for carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and particulate matter (soot), which are generated during combustion processes can be detected and quantized by means of miniaturized sensors.
These gases not only pose potential health hazards, but also endanger human lives under certain conditions. CO in particular is an odourless and colourless gas that kills countless of people every year. As a result, a CO sensor and alarm that could be carried anywhere and any place is a viable option.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are other pollutants which are at times produced from office equipment and plastics. Although VOC detectors are available, it is difficult to make them compact, robust and durable enough to be integrated into wearable devices.
Another interesting fact is that temperature sensors also represent a significant challenge for these devices, because for the most part these sensors will read the gadget’s temperature rather than the surroundings.
Hence, it is not possible to obtain a suitable thermometer app for the smartphone, without investing in an additional probe. Nonetheless, immense possibility exists for atmospheric and environmental sensing through wearable technology, and this will have a considerable impact on our daily life in the near future.
It is a well-known fact that more data leads to better and improved reporting, and before long there will be countless users capable of endlessly recording and reporting on major environmental factors such as the levels of pollutants.
This will eventually translate into comprehensive maps and travel advice, and redefine the nature of weather forecasts. During emergencies such as chemical spills and industrial accidents, this information could prove life-saving as authorities would be able to provide meaningful advice on whether to stay indoors or not, or to locate safe evacuation routes.
The integration of atmospheric sensors in wearable technology is set to become a major real-world application of the supposed 'internet of things', wherein all types of devices will be linked easily.
The prospective gadgets would not only collect information and share it discretely to benefit a large section of society, but would also receive and interpret data with excellent precision, more superior to the current generation of smartphones.
This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by SGX Sensortech (IS) Ltd.
For more information on this source, please visit SGX Sensortech (IS) Ltd.