Could you give a general description of Gentag’s technology?
Gentag’s technology combines reader capabilities for both active and passive sensors on low cost wireless devices like cell phones. The battery of a cell phone can be used to power an active sensor continuously, even when the cell phone is turned off. Gentag’s has patented a “smart” removable cell phone sensor module. An example might be a carbon monoxide sensor that would detect levels of CO in a home, a car or a work environment. If a dangerous level of CO is present, the cell phone wakes up and immediately notifies the owner. If a person is interested in CO detection then that function can be added onto a cell phone equipped with a sensor module slot. In addition to this capability Gentag is working with the wireless industry to integrate RFID readers in cell phones.
Gentag also uses low cost, passive (battery-less) RFID sensors. An application example of our patented technology is a passive RFID temperature “smart” skin patch that can monitor directly the temperature of a child or patient using a cell phone. Such wireless sensors can be produced for $1 as a finished product.
How did Gentag move into this space? Are you meeting a demand or creating a market?
Today’s market for wireless sensors is enormous. The original technology was developed at Sandia National Laboratories for the US Department of Defense in the early 1990s. The Government needed to track their soldiers in environments where GPS (Global Positioning System) did not work. Removable sensors were added, combining non-GPS geolocation, two way communication and sensors in a single wireless device. Our first patent was issued in 2000. We subsequently patented passive-sensor reader cell phones and key applications for this emerging technology.
Your website describes a number of applications for mobile diagnostic testing, including homeland security. Can cell phones as wireless sensors readers help prevent terrorist attacks?
We believe that phone-sensor combinations for both active and passive sensors are ideal tools for Homeland Security for several reasons. First cell phones are everywhere and in particular in areas where there are lots of people. Therefore the infrastructure already exists and cell phone usage is particularly prevalent in the most likely spots for a terror attack. By adding small modular threat sensors (such as radiation sensors) to cell phones and distributing these broadly, real time cell phone-sensor networks can be created simply and at low cost. Such networks could help prevent major terrorist threats like “dirty bombs” in large cities. Cell phones are also the ideal platform for sensors. They have sophisticated processing, communication and power means and furthermore the basic platform is very low cost. Therefore cell phone-sensors can be placed everywhere for example in trucks, buses, subway cars, etc. Finally by combining geolocation and sensor events, cross validation of sensor events can occur. That is if several wireless devices detect the same threat in the same location, then you validate the threat by overlaying geolocation and sensing events. To do this you can piggyback on major nationwide systems such as E911. Gentag is also co-developing and is currently testing a low cost disposable RFID-passive radiation sensor. If the tests are successful this technology could be included in shipping packages and help flag out remotely any package that includes radioactive materials.
Do you anticipate consumer applications of mobile devices as sensors?
The success of the camera phone means the wireless industry is looking for something new. There are so many compelling uses of mobile devices as sensors that we anticipate large market demand for this new technology. Cell phone-sensor readers will impact dramatically daily life and will empower consumers to do things like detect spoiled foods prior to purchase, detect if a tire in your car is losing pressure while you are driving, know the storage temperature history of a wine bottle prior to purchase, or be warned remotely on your cell phone if someone is entering your home. Perhaps the most exciting application is for medical diagnostics and point-of-care where large market opportunities exist. Gentag’s vision is that one day any diagnostic test will be performed directly on a cell phone.