Apple refining methods to reset & calibrate future iPhone toxic gas sensors

Posted:
in General Discussion
Apple is continuing work on iPhone-embedded poisonous gas sensors, with its latest invention being a way to calibrate and lengthen the life of the consumable materials used to detect the toxins.

OneLink Smart Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm, a HomeKit-enabled sensing device for the home.
OneLink Smart Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Alarm, a HomeKit-enabled sensing device for the home.


In a patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday, Apple is adding detail to what it is working on, in regards to a poisonous gas sensor. While adding a gas detector to a device isn't entirely novel, the latest patent application covering the work titled "gas sensor baseline correction using multiple co-located gas sensors" goes further, delving into ways that Apple can maintain accuracy of minute sensors.

Metal oxide gas sensors can be very small, have very low power consumption, and are easy to fabricate. But, over time, they can lose accuracy, or even fail to work after repeated, minute exposure to toxins.

Beyond Apple's initial work on a multi-layer silicon-based sensor with electrodes deposited on the substrate, Apple has refined how it is planning on using "hot plates" or heating elements to refresh the gas-sensing layer.

As proposed, Apple's granular metal oxide semiconductor material sensor could be used to detect multiple common gases. As the resistance increases in the plates, software in an iPhone could calculate the target gas concentration and pop up a warning for the user.

The latest iteration details pairing sensors, both with the heating elements, and comparing the two. Over time, comparing the results of the two sensors, a combined system can mathematically correct for any drift caused by exposure or use. Additionally, applied correctly, the heating process can not just compensate for drift, but also effectively clean the sensing plates.

Apple also proposes the possibility of the sensor being held in an enclosure, with multiple adsorbent layers lining the interior of the casing. The multiple adsorbent layer could selectively let target gases through, with different layers responsible for sensing different environmental toxins.

Simplified illustration of the heating element and multiple gas detecting areas
Simplified illustration of the heating element and multiple gas detecting areas


Apple adds that a second set of heating elements could be added to the enclosure, allowing for control of gas flow. With the first elements on and the second enclosure elements off, the system is in a position that allows for "poison removal," namely encouraging it to dissipate around the sensor. Reversing the heating element states are said to help a "regeneration operation" take place.

Minus this regeneration operation, the sensor pads would have to be replaced at a frequency depending on exposure to maintain effectiveness. The heating element could lengthen this replacement cycle beyond what would likely be months for most users without the system, to multiple years.

Apple issues a large number of patents and applications on a weekly basis, and while they illustrate where Apple has focused in the last, it is not a guarantee that the concepts described will be introduced as part of a commercial product or service.

Creating small and easy-to-integrate gas sensors would offer the opportunity to have more of the sensors not just in a home like common smoke detectors and carbon monoxide sensors, but it could allow for portability as well. Additionally, the layer-cake design of the sensor substrate could allow one element to sense multiple gases instead of the single-gas detectors currently offered on the consumer marketplace.

As a result, HomeKit safety devices could become more prevalent. Sensors coupled with HomeKit technology could be used to warn homeowners of a gas leak or other hazardous conditions while they are at work or away from the home itself.

This is not the first time Apple has considered warning users of environmental dangers. In a December 2016 patent application called "Electronic device with speaker enclosure sensor," Apple suggested adding an environmental sensor within a speaker cavity, giving it some protection from the elements while allowing the natural air movement of the speaker diaphragm to help it collect samples.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 7
    I am interested to see what people with such sensor will be screening all around the different places. Same with noise meter in Watch. We may find that number of places are not ideal for living.
    lolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 7
    davgregdavgreg Posts: 481member
    I am surprised that Apple has not acquired a smart home/security company in the drive for services. Maybe this indicates that they have interest in the segment.

    Right now, HomeKit is falling behind Google and Amazon in the space- even Samsung has a complete line of sensors linked closely to their ecosystem. HomeKit is a hodgepodge and still gets an incomplete at this late date.

    I have the excellent Netatmo kit that has both an outdoor weather module (Ozone, Temp, Pressure, Humidity) and an indoor air quality module (Temp, CO2, Sound Level, Humidity). It does not support HomeKit. I got tired of waiting for their new HomeKit Video Doorbell and went out an bought the SimpliSafe system- also not tied to HomeKit. 
    edited August 22 JWSC
  • Reply 3 of 7
    JWSCJWSC Posts: 552member
    davgreg said:
    I am surprised that Apple has not acquired a smart home/security company in the drive for services. Maybe this indicates that they have interest in the segment.

    Right now, HomeKit is falling behind Google and Amazon in the space- even Samsung has a complete line of sensors linked closely to their ecosystem. HomeKit is a hodgepodge and still gets an incomplete at this late date.

    I have the excellent Netatmo kit that has both an outdoor weather module (Ozone, Temp, Pressure, Humidity) and an indoor air quality module (Temp, CO2, Sound Level, Humidity). It does not support HomeKit. I got tired of waiting for their new HomeKit Video Doorbell and went out an bought the SimpliSafe system- also not tied to HomeKit. 
    Not to diss the entire HomeKit team, but it seems the leadership hasn’t focused nearly enough attention on HomeKit.  With so much potential for integration with IOT devices you’d think they’d be more focused on it.  But from the outside looking in, the whole effort appears to be languishing.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 7
    StrangeDaysStrangeDays Posts: 8,811member
    Nah, HK isn’t languishing. Apple doesn’t need to produce a line of home security devices or sensors. That isn’t their business, no more than making printers or scanners is (two things they used to make). Third parties do, Apple makes the platform. I have HK home sensors — temperature, humidity, sound, light, etc.. It’s fine, there is no doom, Apple isn’t “losing” just because another company sells their own sensors. 

    HomeKit has superior security and wouldn’t trust any Samsung or Alexa IoT device. Plenty of articles about security vulnerabilities left open by non-HK manufacturers. They don’t think about security. 


    hexclocklolliverwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 7
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 7,464member
    frantisek said:
    I am interested to see what people with such sensor will be screening all around the different places. Same with noise meter in Watch. We may find that number of places are not ideal for living.
    Oh, my watch just told me I passed through some CO from my lawnmower engine. I’m dying!
    edited August 22 hexclockwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 7
    fastasleepfastasleep Posts: 3,301member
    Looking forward to watching people fart on their phones to try and trigger a warning. 
    hexclockFileMakerFellerwatto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 7
    Looking forward to watching people fart on their phones to try and trigger a warning. 
    I picture a whole subway car full of alerts going off.
    Great idea though, if they can get it working.
    fastasleepwatto_cobra
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