Your cellphone can already tell you where to find the nearest Starbucks or the most convenient subway station. But it might soon be smart enough to alert you to a toxic threat during your morning commute or coffee break, thanks to a new plan from the Department of Homeland Security.
The last time we heard about cellphones and terrorism, it was an appeal from the NYPD to shut off cell communication during an attack. Now, Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate want to use cellphones to detect the very threats that might be coordinated using wireless chit-chat. Their new program, called Cell-All, would embed inexpensive, chemical-sniffing microchips into cellular telephones. If a dangerous level of air-based toxin is detected, the phone would issue a warning ring (or vibration) to alert the owner and send a message to a centralized military monitoring station.
And, since the vast majority of Americans carry cellphones wherever they go, the program would use aggregated reports of toxin detection within a small area. If hundreds of cellphones in one location start flooding the alert system, the military knows they’ve got a serious threat to contend with. Detection, transmission and analysis would take around 60 seconds, according to a press release from the Directorate.
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