I just read a very cool article about the development of a sensor that can be plugged into an iPhone and used by first responders to detect chemicals in the air. If chemicals like ammonia, chlorine gas and methane register on the phone, personnel can send the information directly to the appropriate people. This is obviously pretty cool and useful for responding agencies, but here's an even crazier concept:
Homeland Security hopes to eventually see such sensing chips embedded in everybody's cell phone, so that the mobile devices could form a huge chemical-alert network wherever people go.
I haven't checked the validity of this statement with anyone from DHS, but talk about a visionary concept. If everyone's phone could detect chemicals in the air, it would not only alert people that the area is unsafe, but it would help first responders focus their efforts on the most critical areas first.
And while I like the concept of the public playing a role in crisis response, I do have some initial hesitation about the implementation of such technology. I assume it would be the discretion of the user about when and how often such a sensor would work (the article briefly addresses this in terms of it's effect on battery life), but there's something that concerns me about my phone being used for purposes other than my personal use. The article also mentioned that the sensor could not only identify chemicals by name, but also detect chemical concentration, humidity and temperature. I guess I would need to know more about the logistics of such a technology before I would consider adding it to my phone. Plus, no matter how fancy this sensor is, it'll never be as cool as the flute app.