An iPhone equipped with a low-cost hyperspectral sensor

iPhone can check food quality using hyperspectral camera

Image credit: VTT

Finnish researchers have developed what they describe as the world’s first hyperspectral sensor for a smartphone, which enables an iPhone to measure quality of food or examine moles on skin.

The team, which has previously developed hyperspectral cameras for drones and nano-satellites, says their technology is much cheaper than conventional hyperspectral devices used in medical diagnostics or environmental sensing, which makes it viable for use in consumer electronics without affecting the price.

“Consumer benefits could appear in health applications, such as mobile phones that are able to check whether moles are malignant or food is edible,” said Anna Rissanen, who is heading the research team at the Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT). “They could also verify product authenticity or identify users based on biometric data.”

Rissanen said the sensor, an optical MEMS (micro electro-mechanical system), could also be used in driverless cars, enabling them to identify features in the environment. 

The MEMS technology can analyse material properties based on the optical spectrum of the image created by the imaged object.

For the purposes of their experiments, the researchers integrated the MEMS sensor into the camera lens of an iPhone and synchronised it with the device’s image-capture system.

“Today’s smart devices provide huge opportunities for the processing of image data and various cloud services based on spectral data,” said Rissanen.

“Mass-produced sensor technology will enable the introduction of hyperspectral imaging in a range of devices in which low-cost camera sensors are currently used.”

The researchers are now looking for commercial partners to help them bring the innovation into the market.

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