Google wants to make your Android phone much smarter with accelerometer and other sensors

The smartphones we carry around today are pretty smart. They can already do a lot of things and usually do exactly what we tell them to do.

And the recent improvements in user interfaces are making the process of telling your smartphone what to do better and better.

So now the R&D labs at major cellphone/OS vendors are dabbling on another frontier. Making your handset understand what you are doing at any moment of time, anticipate what you will do next, and conform to your wishes even before you thought of that.

Some of these efforts, like integration between calendar and the mapping apps, the automatic syncing with the cloud in WebOS Synergy, or automatic broadcasting of your status and location to friends via Google Latitude and Ovi Contacts, are already appearing or will very soon appear in your next smart device.

But it is just a very early start. And today we get a glimpse of how Google plans to turn your Android phone into a really clever handset by using built-in accelerometer and other sensors.


The main idea behind Google’s patent app called “Activating Applications Based on Accelerometer Data”  is that by continuously monitoring your accelerometer data, your handset can differentiate between your activities. It’s because the different activities – jogging, walking, driving a car in heavy traffic or highway, riding a train or bike, going up in elevator, sitting at your desk in the office – they all generate different acceleration data profiles.

Combine that data with your location (GPS sensor) and time, and there’s a very good chance for your Android phone to correctly guess what your are doing right now.

Add in a training period of a few days or weeks, where your handset watches what you are  doing now and what you are  doing with it, and there’s a possibility for it to become really smart, start anticipate your wishes beforehand and act accordingly even before you tell it to:

  • Going out for your 6AM jog before heading to work? Your handset launches a music player as soon as you start running
  • Driving a car to work? The phone switches to speakerphone mode and launches that podcast your pre-loaded
  • Riding a train to your office and like to catch up on the news during the trip? The browser, with local, business and global news pages open, is already running when you take the phone out of your pocket.
  • Just got into the office? Put you handset on the table and the messaging app with all your work voicemails and messages is loaded as you boot up your PC and settle into the chair.

If Google ever translates these ideas into an actual product and gets things wrong, such device capabilities might become mighty annoing and intrusive.

But if this approach is implemented well, your handset may become a very smart and personal device. And get smarter the more you use it, as it learns about your habits more and more.

Actually,  after a while, it might become very hard to abandon your current handset for a new one, which you will have to train again all along.

And it makes a pretty nice way for a company/brand lock-in, if some vendor makes old training profiles exportable only to his own devices 🙂

Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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  • Winston Smith

    Basically this phone is watching you like a little spy at all times

  • Staska

    Well, yes, it does.

    So what? If the data is not shared and device security is good, I don't care.

  • dratman

    I already want to turn off that feature. Before even trying it. But a prompted version (“do you want to hear your voicemails now?”), with optional audio reminder, might be okay.

    Still, I don't like the idea that some program is going to be messing around with my f***ing ph*ne. It's MINE, damn it! Keep your replicant hands to yourself, Android.

  • iPhone development

    I am happy Google is innovating in mobile applications…

  • iPhone development

    I am happy Google is innovating in mobile applications…