CJN Article: "Your phone will gauge your mood, Hebrew U prof predicts"

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 "Your phone will gauge your mood, Hebrew U prof predicts"

If you think it’s amazing that cellphones now have cameras and global positioning systems, an Israeli scientist says the day is coming when their capability will be vastly expanded to include environmental and health monitoring, and even to forecasting earthquakes.

Ronny Agranat of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem argues that cyberspace has a third element, which he calls “sensing,” in addition to computers and telecommunications.

Ronny AgranatAgranat is the director of the new Peter Brojde Centre for Innovative Engineering and Computer Science, established in honour of the late Montreal high-tech entrepreneur.

Agranat told a recent audience of local business people, government representatives and supporters of the Canadian Friends of Hebrew University that cyberspace can retrieve information from the physical world.

Two of his undergraduate students, Barak Schiller and Niv Noach, winners of this year’s Brojde computer engineering prize, have demonstrated a simple application of this sensing capability.

Steven Moses, Ari Brojde, Pierre LafreniereThey created an application that allows users to find exactly where a book in a library can be found. After punching information about the book into their phone, the GPS in the phone guides the user to the right aisle and shelf and verifies that the book is the right one.

Agranat’s lab has also built a system using sensing to monitor water contamination. Live bacteria can be trained to sense minute quantities of specific hazardous substances, he said.

Cellphones could some day be used to detect biological, chemical or radioactive material in water that may have been introduced by terrorists.

With time, their system could be reduced to the size of a postage stamp, he said.

Another interesting project that his lab is working on is remote sensing of people’s emotional state. The end of the duct from the sweat glands to the pores on the skin is shaped like a coil.

“We figured if it looks like an antenna, maybe it works like an antenna,” Agranat said.

Anna BrojdeThe skin, indeed, was found to give off differing electomagnetic frequencies, depending on whether a person is rested or aroused by strenuous exercise.

This means that blood pressure and pulse rate could be monitored from a distance, without a person knowing they’re being observed, he said. Changes in vital signs may be a reflection of mental, as well as, physical stress, he noted. This could eventually have applications in security screening or in lie detection.

Agranat, who is also chair of Hebrew U’s department of applied physics, was the keynote speaker at the Canadian Friends’ Albert Einstein Business Forum, held Oct. 6 at the Royal Bank’s 41st-floor Place Ville-Marie boardroom. The series is designed to make Quebecers aware of innovative scientific and technological research and the investment opportunities.

He is the inventor of electroholograph, for which he was awarded the Discover Innovation Award for the leading invention in the field of communication in 2001, by Discover magazine and the Christopher Columbus Society.

Pierre Lafreniere and Monette MalewskiThe Brojde centre’s goal is to foster collaborative and interdisciplinary research, as well as education in science and engineering that leads to technological advancement, encouraging the academic world to co-operate with industry.

The centre, inaugurated last year, selects projects to be funded on a competitive basis, providing short-term seed money that can help take ideas to a stage where they can secure financing from traditional sources.

Brojde, president and CEO of Eicon Technologies Corporation, died in 2005 at age 60. His wife, Anna, created the centre, which also organizes an annual conference, with a major donation to Hebrew U.

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