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Features May 2007: Volume 4, Number 2
   

Cell-Phone Squirrel

 
     

What do you get when you cross a cell phone with a pollution sensor? According to Calit2 researcher Shannon Spanhake, '07, you get a Squirrel-that's what the engineer-turned-artist calls the device that fits in your palm.

Calit2's Circuits Lab built the prototype, which combines a battery, a Bluetooth wireless transmitter and a sensor to monitor carbon monoxide and ozone levels. Real-time pollution data is beamed at regular intervals to the user's cell phone, where software-dubbed "Acorn" creates a screensaver with the latest readings before forwarding them to an Internet database.

The engineers are shrinking the size of the device while beefing up the sensor to test for other air pollutants such as nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide. Spanhake says venture capitalists and private foundations have already inquired about Squirrel's market potential.

"The price of wireless and sensor technology is now making it feasible that every person with a cell phone could become a pollution monitor," says Spanhake.


Contributors to Making Waves: Mario Aguilera, '89, Rex Graham, Raymond Hardie, Robert Monroe, Neda Oreizy, '08, Doug Ramsey

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