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Smartphones, It Seems, Can Do Anything

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Core Tip: Smartphones, it seems, can do anything. Today's phones pack so much power and so many sensors into such a small space -- and at a relativ

Smartphones, it seems, can do anything.

Today's phones pack so much power and so many sensors into such a small space -- and at a relatively low cost -- that they are increasingly being used for inventive purposes. Just this week Strand 1, a nano-satellite based on a Google Nexus One cell phone, was launched into space on an Indian rocket.

It's not just the hardware that brings an advantage: Android is an increasingly popular platform for development.

So, when researchers at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits were asked to come up with a camera that could be mounted on an eagle to get a literal bird's-eye view of its life, they too turned to a cell phone. But you can't exactly tape a smartphone to a bird's back.

Instead, the Fraunhofer engineers broke apart the phone and repackaged some of the components on custom boards. The boards leverage the small, low-cost, standard interface on phone components into units that can be easily employed for other projects.

"The idea three years ago was to use the very powerful processor used in cell phones or tablets for other applications, like professional cameras and different markets like surveillance, broadcast," said Michael Schmid, a researcher at the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits.

The eagle cam contained a camera module, processor, memory, and could communicate over Wi-Fi or LTE, so it was possible to stream real-time video from the back of the bird.

 
 
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