Air quality is an increasingly important factor contributing to our health. With increasing concerns about air quality worldwide we can safely say that it can become a pressing concern in the near future. Interestingly Apple has a system in the works for a future iPhone that will allow users to measure air properties from their smartphones and wearables. The system will warn users of poisonous gasses and pollen in the nearby environment. Apple plans to implement a laser-based solution for this feature.
While you can’t see it with your eyes air is extremely important to our daily lives. There are numerous elements of air quality that need attention. Air can have poisonous gasses that may harm your respiratory system. For people with breathing allergies, there are certain invisible particles like pollen that can cause breathing issues.
Although we already have devices like smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in our home. There are still no versions of these devices that we can carry with us. This makes us think, if our phones can have so many sensors cant we add one more to the mix. Adding air or gas sensors to our phones or wearables will greatly decrease the risk of inhaling pollutants. It is also an extremely portable solution.
It looks like Apple got this idea before any of the other tech companies out there. Their recent patent is called “Particle matter sensors for portable electronic devices”. This patent shows one way we can overcome the air quality measurement issues. This device will be small enough that it can be installed on our major electronic devices.
This new device will accurately detect suspended particles in the air. This will give users a warning when a different particle density is measured. It can even be used to issue warnings when pollen amount in the air rises above acceptable levels.
Apple has developed a neat design for this device. There is a set of self-mixing interferometers. These devices use laser light to detect particles in the air. The work by using the concept of light reflection and refraction from surfaces. Now, wind speeds and other physical factors like humidity seriously affect accuracy in these systems. As a result, sometimes these devices also include a fan. fans eliminate the fluctuation in wind speed and make the measurements more accurate.
Apple has taken an interesting approach to this apparatus. Their solution uses three lenses used for total internal reflection coupled with the required light sensors. these light sensors are usually photodiodes that generate a signal when light shines on them. The laser system emits a powerful beam of light. It reflects from other particles in the environment and then reflects back to our sensors.
Apple has a stack-like potential design for this assembly it will have reflection lenses on top. Underneath them will be the emitter and detector devices, lastly below them will be our relevant circuitry to run the electronics. This design will not only save space it is also easier to implement in modern portable devices. Apple plans to use VCSEL technology that they already use for the iPhone camera in this system as well.
By comparing transmitted and received power this system will differentiate between various particles in the environment. Furthermore, this design will use three laser design that will make it capable of accurate three-dimensional scans and estimations. It will emit light in different directions and will calculate and reduce errors in real-time.
Comming to practicality we do not know when this technology will make it to consumer devices. it may be on the next iPhone or it may never be in one. Apple has this habit of filing various patents but not all of them come to life. However, we can not lose hope.