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GCN : March 2013
20 GCN MARCH 2013 • GCN.COM They've got more computing power than some PCs had only a few years ago. They can capture geocoded photos and videos, measure sound levels, and take temperature and humidity read- ings. They can be used by soldiers on patrol to locate snipers or by shoppers to find open parking spaces. And they fit neatly in your pocket. Oh, and they make phone calls, too. Developers are rushing to take advantage of the rapidly enhanc- ing capabilities of smartphones to create mobile networks that col- lect a wide range of data, process it and deliver it to those who can make use of it. In government circles, potential uses range from enhancing situational awareness for first responders to monitoring environmental conditions. "We're very excited about where this technology is going," said Richard Wayland, director of the Environmental Protection Agency's Air Quality Assessment Division. What has him most ex- cited, he said, is the potential the technology offers for community- based sensing that can supple- ment data collected by the EPA. "There is a lot of effort for communities doing their own monitoring," Wayland said. "Sometimes it's difficult to get the high-end expensive equip- ment everywhere you need it to be. This kind of technology shows a lot of potential benefits down the road." The West Oakland Envi- ronmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), a resident-led envi- ronmental organization, is col- lecting air quality data using a handheld device designed by researchers at the University of California-Berkeley and Intel that includes a cell phone circuit, GPS receiver and sensors that measure particulates. TOOLS OF PREFERENCE According to Brian Beveridge, co-director of WOEIP, a custom device was required because particulate sensors are still too large to imbed in smartphones, although he says engineers at Berkeley are working to minia- turize a particulate sensor. "Smartphones are becoming the tool of preference because they have well-integrated GPS and they have a variety of other components built in that can be multi-purposed," WOEIP co-di- rector Beveridge said. "And you can plug other sensors into the jack on most phones." One of the most dramatic implementations of smartphone sensor networks is being devel- oped at Vanderbilt University. Akos Ledeczi, associate profes- sor of computer engineering, and his team are putting the final touches on SOLOMON (Shooter Localization with Mo- bile Phones), a project funded by the Defense Advanced Re- search Projects Agency. With SOLOMON, Android phone-equipped soldiers can quickly locate a sniper by pro- cessing data from the sound and shockwave of a gunshot. Each soldier wears a sensor paired to an Android cell phone. "When the sensor detects a gunshot it measures the time of arrival of the shockwave," Ledeczi said. "Then it waits for the muzzle blast, which is the actual sound of gunfire, so it measures the times and some characteristics of the acoustic events and then sends it to the phone using Bluetooth." The phones share the gath- ered data and, using algorithms developed by Ledeczi's team, the direction and range of the shot's origin is calculated and displayed on each phone us- ing Google Maps. According to Ledeczi, SOLOMON can deter- mine the direction of the shoot- er within a few degrees and the range within about 10 meters. One obvious shortcoming in Agencies see huge potential in using ad hoc smartphone networks for any number of military and civilian uses, ranging from spotting snipers to testing air quality. SMARTPHONES AS SENSOR NETWORKS BY PATRICK MARSHALL