As with every pending new iPhone release, rumors about new features are in full swing. What I am missing in those discussions is something I’ve been hoping for for a long time now, yet no smartphone vendor has released or announced any of the kind (as far as I am aware). Please note that the following are merely my own thoughts; none of it is based on sources or facts.
Imagine every one of the hundreds of millions of smartphones sold every year was equipped with a host of sensors to record environmental data such as temperature, humidity, air pressure, and even air quality and nuclear radiation. Imagine furthermore that all those devices would automatically record their readings at certain intervals and transmit them anonymized together with location data (and possibly audio noise levels) to a central database. This data would then be open and accessible to everyone via APIs for further analysis and study. I am not an environmental scientists by any means, but I cannot imagine this wouldn’t be of high value. And I am also quite certain that one or the other nifty entrepreneur will find novel ways to use the data for business purposes.
An open question of course is the financing of such an endeavor. Said entrepreneurs could pay to use the data, but that certainly wouldn’t cover all the costs. Maybe the anonymous location data could also be used by car navigation systems to predict traffic as an additional paid-for option. But certainly governments would find ways to use this data for surveillance, and who knows what other nefarious groups might come up with.
Still, I would welcome such advances in smartphones, and Apple could lead the way. Some of the sensors I mentioned might not be small enough (yet) to incorporate, but that can only be a matter of time.