Apple proposes simplified location detection using tiny gas sensors in iPhones

Posted:
in iPhone edited April 25
A future iPhone or Apple Watch could determine its general location by gases, Apple has proposed, with the use of miniature sensors inspecting the air to determine if the user is inside or outdoors, and potentially even narrowing down to a specific room, without relying on GPS or signals from communication networks.




Current location detection systems generally rely on the presence of electronic signals to narrow down a device's location. GPS signals can provide enough information for a mobile device to figure out its location, while the presence of known Wi-Fi and cellular networks, Bluetooth, NFC tags, and other elements can help assist where GPS is unavailable, such as indoors.

While these are useful, Apple notes that all of these require some level of existing infrastructure within range for a reading. In extreme cases where GPS is unavailable and there is no electronic signals nearby, such as at the bottom of a canyon or valley for example, other ways have to be produced.

In a patent application titled "Enhanced location detection using sensors integrated in electronic devices," Apple proposes the use of environmental sensors capable of detecting gases in the air. These sensors would be able to pick up ozone, carbon dioxide, and other similar emissions, to get a sense of the general area the device is located within.

A suggested gas-sensing system that could be included in the Apple Watch or iPhone
A suggested gas-sensing system that could be included in the Apple Watch or iPhone


While it cannot give a precise identification of a new area it has yet to have been introduced to, such a system would be able to tell if a user is in one of multiple already known locations, based on the gas it can detect. In effect, for an indoor environment with different windows and entranceways, it could suggest which room the user is located.

Variations can also determine if the user is indoors or not, by the presence of tropospheric ozone, with a visit to a balcony outside providing different readings to that of an indoor environment.

The sensors themselves would be incorporated within the mobile device, and could use technologies involving optical, electrochemical and chemo-resistive technologies. It could even take the form of a "multi-pixel gas sensor," an array of sensors tuned to detect a particular gas type.

An example of how data could be filtered to determine the device's presence in a known location.
An example of how data could be filtered to determine the device's presence in a known location.


The existence of a patent application is not a guarantee that Apple will use the concept in a future product, but it does indicate areas where Apple has conducted research and where it is interested in working within.

Gas detection on mobile devices has cropped up in patent applications a few times, but not in an application relating to location detection. The two others from 2019 have more pedestrian uses for such technologies.

In January, Apple posited the idea of including "chemically robust miniature gas sensors" to its devices, as well as Internet of Things products that could connect to HomeKit, to sense the air for potentially hazardous items like carbon monoxide. Apple's solution to a problem of accuracy raised in the filing involved the use of a silicon-based substrate, adsorbent layers to filter the air, and heating elements to refresh the components.

Another sensor-based pair of patent applications from early April explained ways to detect air pollution and a variety of other gases in the air, including the ability to "smell" the air by detecting combinations of chemicals. Interestingly one filing suggested it could be used for spoiled food detection, body odor, and other "health applications," including determining a user's blood sugar levels in a user's sweat, enabling glucose monitoring without relying on direct contact or an embedded sensor in the user's skin.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    imatimat Posts: 166member
    This could prove to be useful in more ways than just location. Imagine an AppleWatch capable of telling you whether or not to exercise based upon the amount of Ozone in the air. Or telling you to open the windows because the air contains too much carbon dioxide. Or also warning you of the presence of carbon monoxide.

    I imagine the applications both on a fitness level as well as on a HomeKit level of a sensor capable of monitoring air quality and, at the same time, provide feedback on your activities based on it, would be really interesting.


    n2itivguyminicoffeeairnerdsteveau
  • Reply 2 of 19
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,642member
    No it will just know if you live in the stinky place or not, when people tell you your place smell bad and you are inattentional anosmia, they can pull out their phone and show you how bad it really smells.
    larryjwfrantisekSpamSandwich
  • Reply 3 of 19
    tzeshantzeshan Posts: 1,996member
    Apple should develop a virus sensor which should be really useful. 
    Latko
  • Reply 4 of 19
    seanismorrisseanismorris Posts: 1,028member
    Sounds like a method to feed users more targeted advertising.

    No thanks Apple...

    + 1 to creepy/intrusive/unnecessary tech
    airnerd
  • Reply 5 of 19
    Now they will be able to tell if someone is in restroom or outside as well.
    n2itivguy
  • Reply 6 of 19
    tundraboytundraboy Posts: 1,620member
    No farting incognito anymore.
    smiffy312old4funfrantisekn2itivguyedred
  • Reply 7 of 19
    smiffy31smiffy31 Posts: 177member
    tundraboy said:
    No farting incognito anymore.
    I had to sign in specially to like your comment
    n2itivguy
  • Reply 8 of 19
    georgie01georgie01 Posts: 255member
    tundraboy said:
    No farting incognito anymore.
    I wonder if the sensors will get confused if it senses your farts at a new location. Will it suddenly think you’re back in your bedroom?
    n2itivguy
  • Reply 9 of 19
    LatkoLatko Posts: 398member
    georgie01 said:
    tundraboy said:
    No farting incognito anymore.
    I wonder if the sensors will get confused if it senses your farts at a new location. Will it suddenly think you’re back in your bedroom?
    And it will warn your partner when in another
    n2itivguySoli
  • Reply 10 of 19
    Now they will be able to tell if someone is in restroom or outside as well.
    Apple can already tell whether you went through the motion of sitting on a toilet by the accelerometers on your Apple Watch. Moreover the distance travelled by the accelerometers when you sit down would be an indication of your height. Your gender and certain religions would also be easy to calculate by their unique motions. I'm not too worried about Apple collecting this data, but apps from hostile countries might.
    cornchip
  • Reply 11 of 19
    mdriftmeyermdriftmeyer Posts: 7,293member
    This is actually brilliant and technologically innovative. And yes, the applications are many.
    n2itivguy
  • Reply 12 of 19
    frantisekfrantisek Posts: 491member
    Latko said:
    georgie01 said:
    tundraboy said:
    No farting incognito anymore.
    I wonder if the sensors will get confused if it senses your farts at a new location. Will it suddenly think you’re back in your bedroom?
    And it will warn your partner when in another
    Your iPhone will get crazy when your girl will apply that damn good perfume but you have no date arranged! lol
    edited April 25 n2itivguy
  • Reply 13 of 19
    imat said:
    This could prove to be useful in more ways than just location. Imagine an AppleWatch capable of telling you whether or not to exercise based upon the amount of Ozone in the air. Or telling you to open the windows because the air contains too much carbon dioxide. Or also warning you of the presence of carbon monoxide.

    I imagine the applications both on a fitness level as well as on a HomeKit level of a sensor capable of monitoring air quality and, at the same time, provide feedback on your activities based on it, would be really interesting.


    Thinking the same things. 👍🏾☺️
  • Reply 14 of 19
    tundraboy said:
    No farting incognito anymore.
    Fart app 2.0
    cornchip
  • Reply 15 of 19
    netroxnetrox Posts: 755member
    Sounds like a great patent - hope to see it implemented in iphones/watch. I am tired of privacy paranoids. In order to beenfit from convenience and revelant information requires knwoing your location and there's no way it can provide that level without GPS.
  • Reply 16 of 19
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 8,277member
    tzeshan said:
    Apple should develop a virus sensor which should be really useful. 
    A space-virus sensor would also be useful. 
  • Reply 17 of 19
    ivanhivanh Posts: 372member
    It may also tell after your wife driving with a man who’s not you.
  • Reply 18 of 19
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 3,086member
    Sounds like a method to feed users more targeted advertising.

    No thanks Apple...

    + 1 to creepy/intrusive/unnecessary tech
    Or just more accurate location data, which you can turn off across the board if you want nothing to work well or be informative on your iphone.
    edited April 25
  • Reply 19 of 19
    Thats ... a really good idea! Congrats Apple. This is real innovation and something I would never have thought of. For indoor navigation, you could use a suite of sensors including light, sound and smell combined with a learning AI that can determine with some accuracy which room you are in. It will be interesting if they can crowd source solutions by sharing information from multiple iPhones in public locations like shopping malls.
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