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Cellphone-based pollution sensor being developed at Berkeley

Marc Perton

Nokia Xpress-on GPS 5140 shellA team at UC Berkeley is working on a platform to cram even more functionality into your cellphone, but this time instead of adding games, ringtones or other toys, the new functions will be planet-friendly tools like pollution and radiation detectors (hey, it is Berkeley, right?). The idea is to develop a standard for chip-based sensors that can integrate with GPS-equipped phones, allowing them to send location-specific data on anything from air pollution to radiation back to a central database. Eventually, they see the chips adding about $1 to the manufacturing cost of phones. The team hopes to begin testing a prototype, equipped with a carbon monoxide detector, in September. Sounds great, as long as the altruistic long-hairs are in charge. But what happens when your service provider is able to, say, find out that your home has above-average levels of some contaminant, and sells the info to a contractor or realtor, instead of alerting you so you can clean up the problem first?

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