Technology & Science

Smart phone 'nose' would detect toxic gases

Your smart phone may soon be able to act as a second — albeit much more sophisticated — nose.

Your smart phone may soon be able to act as a second — albeit much more sophisticated — nose.

A smart phone that detects toxic chemicals in the air has been developed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate.

The phone, part of the directorate's initiative called Cell-All, contains an inexpensive sensor that has the ability to alert either the cellphone user of an imminent threat or a central station that can track alerts from multiple users.

It's intended to sniff out anything from a chlorine gas leak to sarin gas, the poison used in attacks on the Tokyo subway system in 1995.

Other uses of the phone will include detecting the presence of carbon monoxide or fire in the home.

The sensor can detect, alert the user and notify authorities in under a minute.

Users will have the option of setting the type of alert they want, whether it's an alarm, text or call. If a chemical attack occurs, the device will issue a warning to authorities automatically.

NASA and two private companies, Qualcomm and Rhevision Technology, are working on developing prototypes. Homeland Security hopes to have 40 prototypes within the next year and is now focusing on developing partnerships with phone manufacturers Qualcomm, LG, Apple and Samsung.

The department predicts it will be several years before the devices hit the market.