Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Sensory Cell Phones

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Sensory Cell Phones

Article excerpt

Your smart phone may soon be able to know not only that you are at the mall, but whether you are in the jewelry store or the shoe store. Duke University computer engineers have made use of standard cell phone features--accelerometers, cameras, and microphones--to turn the unique properties of a particular space into a distinct fingerprint. While standard global positioning systems (GPS) are only accurate to 10 m (32 ft.) and do not work indoors, the new application is designed to work indoors and be so precise that it can tell whether a user is on one side of an interior wall or another.

The system, dubbed SurroundSense, uses the phone's built-in camera and microphone to record sound, light, and colors, while the accelerometer records movement patterns of the phone's user. This information is sent to a server, which knits the disparate information together into a single fingerprint.

"You can't tell much from any of the measurements individually, but when combined, the optical, acoustic, and motion information creates a unique fingerprint of the space," says Ionut Constandache, a graduate student in computer science. For example, in a bar, people spend little time moving and most time sitting, while the room is typically dark and noisy. …

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