back to article Caltech shrinks optical accelerometers

The practical limit to tracking a smartphone-owner’s movements in real time – beneath the resolution of GPS and associated location-tracking technologies – is the sensitivity of the motion sensor. Researchers at Caltech say they’ve taken a step towards very fine motion sensors, using nano-scale waveguides. Today’s smartphones …


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  1. Neoc

    Gives a new meaning...

    ... to those helper apps' favourite phrase "I see you're..."

    1. Elmer Phud

      Re: Gives a new meaning...

      No, I'm just rummaging for loose change.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Unnecessary snark

    "allowing them to be bombarded with aisle-specific advertisements." -- one can conceive of crappy uses for any technology but this seems a stretch - after all there are already ways to provide site-specific advertising and inside a supermarket there are better ways to harrass a shopper than sending data to a cooperating app on their phone (POS displays with shouty TVs come to mind).

    Hearing further details of the likely limitations (accuracy, rate of drift, etc) would have been more interesting. Did the Caltech researchers actually propose something like this, or is it just a somewhat trite comic note?

  3. Anonymous Coward

    3K in one direction only

    I will bet that "3K" temperature isn't what most people think of as a temperature, but rather only applies to the motion of the proof mass in the direction of measurement - the thermal vibrations in that axis ONLY are reduced to the level you'd see if things were at 3K. However, I'll bet the over-all vibrations, in all 3 axis, are normal temperatures.

    1. I think so I am?

      Re: 3K in one direction only

      wouldn't want something that cold in my pocket !

  4. vic 4

    Couple this with

    Apples patent on enforcing policy on devices in an authority controlled area (or whatever it was) and you won't be able to turn off the adverts.

    On the good side, you can write an app to discover how many times people pick their nose in a day.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Couple this with

      Only if we all pick our noses the same way.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    US export rules

    Expect the US government to get jumpy about such things. You need good accelerometers in precision inertial navigation systems, you know, the sort you put in cruise missiles and nuclear missiles so that they can be accurately targeted without having to worry about GPS jamming (or whatever). If all of a sudden you start getting inertial nav that good in a mobile phone then that starts to get worrying; anyone would be able to do it. Let's hope they don't make the gyros better too, though presumably the same trick could be applied to them.

    Built in car sat nav sometimes has an inertial side to it to help when GPS drop out (tunnels, etc). This sort of thing could make a portable sat nav like a TomTom as good as a built in. It would also make the EU's Galileo GPS lookalike less worthwhile. Mobiles / sat navs could use accurate inertial navigation plus the occasional GPS fix and cope much better with an obscured sky view. Galileo's improved performance in the Urban Canyon environment wouldn't be needed as much.

    It would be distressing indeed if the primary use of this tech ends up being the hideous pettiness of serving up geoloc advertising. What's the ****ing point of advertising washing powder on someone's ****ing mobile when they're already stood in that aisle in the supermarket right next to the ****ing washing powder? They're probably about to ****ing buy some washing powder anyway. All in all it's just another way for the advertising brokers like Google to hold companies to ransom - "If you don't advertising your product right here then someone else will". How does that benefit anyone at all, other than Google/Apple/etc???????? It's bad enough getting spam email as it is, but getting spammed every few yards in the supermarket is going to result in flat batteries, overloaded mobile networks and ****ing cross punters.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: US export rules

      I believe that the reason is that P&G would know, after 3 or 4 trips down the detergent aisle that you typically buy product X, Y and R. So 4 trips later, you don't purchase all 3, they can remind you before you leave the aisle.

      On the other hand, if there was an iPhone app that could query your cabinets, pantry and fridge, it could remind you to stop on the way home and buy groceries. Once you're in the store, it could tell you, by querying the store's inventory Db, whether you could get away with one of those hand baskets or if you would need a small cart or a large cart, and which aisles you needed to visit.

      On another note, is anyone other than me disturbed by the recent demise of brand names? Is "Great Value" or "Clear" or "Nice!" a brand to trust? I stopped buying a product when it was rebranded. It had formerly been a store brand, and was repackaged under the "Nice!" brand. I now spend 1/3 less in this store.

  6. DougS Silver badge

    Nike+ on steroids

    You could take it on a run or bike ride and have a very accurate second by second graph of your speed and elevation change that shows your the changes in your pace as you encounter hills or get tired.

    It might even replace the speedometer in your car, which is currently subject to inaccuracy as it depends on a fixed tire diameter, even though that diameter varies depending on inflation, temperature and wear.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nike+ on steroids

      Very good. Think of the graphs my girlfriend and I could create with one of those.

      Why am I now reminded of the music from the movie-theatre-scene in "The Pelican Brief" ???

  7. itzman

    One more reason

    NOT to own a 'smart phone'

    "Oh he's in the urinals room, ooh he's shaking it, on,...two...three..FOUR times? IS he JUST having a piss?"

    Too MUCH detail chaps.

  8. Craig 8

    > They're probably about to ****ing buy some washing powder anyway.

    Yes, but the supermarket knows which brand you normally buy, and now has the opportunity to influence you to buy a different brand that's more profitable for them. *That's* why they would do it on a mobile (tied to a specific person and their buying habits) and not on a TV screen; also if you normally buy the profitable brand anyway then they can save money by not offering you the discount.

    You're just not thinking evil enough.

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