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There is now a cell phone capable of detecting life-threatening chemical exposures.

Called the Cell-All, the Department of Homeland Security’s Science & Technology Directorate worked with commercial vendors to miniaturize environmental sensors and embed them in commercial devices.

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In a real life example, the Los Angeles Fire Department used the Cell-All to detect a mock carbon-monoxide incident.

Cell-All is an environmental sensor and application for cell phones that enhances personal and public safety, said a DHS S&T spokesperson. Cell-All detects and alerts individuals and public-safety authorities about the release of specific toxic chemicals into the environment, putting environmental threat detection within reach of anyone who has a cell phone, the spokesperson said.

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Guided by researchers at the S&T, the new phone uses existing technologies that researchers tweaked to fit the project. The technologies came from NASA’s Center for Nanotechnology, Ames Research Center; Colorado-based nanotechnology chip maker Synkera; network operator Qualcomm; and research and analysis firm NC4. It also included participation from the California Environmental Protection Agency and testing by the Los Angeles Fire and Police Departments (LAFD).

The alert goes to a device with specific information, such as exposure level or a map of the affected area. In addition, the chemical-detector-empowered cell phone has the potential to send two-way information anonymously. When a citizens’ phone records a high reading, the chemical data and the person’s location can transmit to an emergency operations center anonymously, which then can go to first-responder agencies, said Battalion Chief Corey Rose of LAFD.

During the mock emergency, first responders released toxic carbon monoxide — an odorless, colorless and highly toxic gas — and tested sensors on firefighters and mock citizens. Los Angeles fire and police departments successfully performed a mock response and rescue operation immediately following the Cell-All demonstration.

“This technology enhances our ability to recognize what the chemical is and give users a location and that information can be vetted out to area partners to determine how to mitigate the problem,” Rose said. “There now are new ways to leverage technology to … improve the safety of the community at large.”

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