Intel has unveiled a new generation of tiny sensors that continuously analyze air quality in an effort to further understand and combat air pollution. The corporation also announced on Friday that it is developing devices that can tap energy from sunlight, body heat and television signals.
While the air quality sensors have yet to hit the consumer market, street sweepers in San Francisco have already been outfitted with the chip-sized sensors that continuously monitor and relay air pollution information. The sensors are linked to GPS enabled Nokia N95 cellphones and allow scientists to access air quality readings worldwide in real time.
According to Intel’s Chief Technology Officer Justin Rattner, the energy tapping devices (which are in the research stage) can salvage and store small amounts of energy from sources in the surrounding environment such as sunlight, body heat, television signals and cell phone towers. The devices are designed to continuously ‘scavenge’ energy until they have a enough power to perform a given task such as run a built-in data transmitter with limited range.
Rattner says a commercial application for such a product could be a medical implant that monitors a patient’s health and then transmits data to a doctor’s cell phone placed near the implant.
I am most excited about the air quality sensors. Imagine the data that could be gathered if every phone in the country had such a device. Changes in air pollution could be monitored in real time and environmental disasters could be predicted and prevented!
The prospect of ‘free energy’ devices is quite interesting as well, although I would like to see if such a system could work on a large scale.
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