A more effective method of sensing the environment

The Internet of Things has had a tremendous impact on our ability to monitor and test for a wide range of things, from environmental pollution to food contamination.  A recent study suggests however that such sensors are often too bulky and expensive, and proposes a significantly better approach.

The researchers propose portable pressure-based sensors that are coupled with smartphone software.  They believe such an approach would maintain the quality of data detection whilst being considerably simpler and more affordable.

Smart sensing

At the heart of the system is the ability to detect pressure changes.  For instance, when examining for disease biomarkers, their presence can cause a chain reaction that results in oxygen being released, and pressure mounting.  These changes in pressure can then be measured via a portable barometer, with software built into the smartphone doing the analysis and display of the data.

The new system was tested in a number of ways.  For instance, prototypes were capable of detecting carcinoembryonic antigen, which is a protein present in people with colon or rectal cancer.  It was also capable of detecting the cardiovascular biomarker thrombin, whilst showing off the potential versatility by detecting the banned animal-feed additive ractopamine and mercury in environmental sensing.

The team believe their system could provide for real-time analysis of the environment because the data is instantly available on a smartphone.  The next stage will be to try and find a partner to help bring the system to market.

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