No matter how smart our phones get, it will never be enough will it? So it’s not surprising that one of the things we enjoy most about the latest generation smartphones is the fact that they now come with a bunch of integrated sensors which we can use to do all sorts of clever things. Well now there’s the ultimate keychain sensor accessory available for your phone, and it’s pretty Star Trek worthy all round.
The Sensordrone is a small keychain Bluetooth device which contains a selection of very useful sensors, including gas, humidity. light and pressure, all designed to give your phone more ability to sense its surroundings and feed back valuable information. Yep, a bit like a TriCorder. The product came out of a Kickstarter project back in July of last year, which smashed through its target in an instant.
They call it a sensing computer, but in fact it’s your phone that’s the computer bit, all the Sensordrone does is link up via Bluetooth and add a bunch of sensor capabilities to your handset. The thing can cope with:
* Precision Gas: Uses – air quality, stinky breath analysis, Carbon Monoxide monitor, alcohol tester
* Reducing Gas Sensor: Uses – Methane, Propane, Natural Gas leak detector
* Non-Contact Thermometer: Uses – thermal leak detection, remote temp measurement
* Oxidizing Gas Sensor: Uses – ozone and chlorine leaks
* Humidity Sensor: Uses – weather, comfort measurement, storage guide, heat index
* Light Sensor: Uses – light intensity, solar monitoring, light meter
* Pressure Sensor: Uses – barometer, altimeter, weather, chamber pressure
* Color Sensor: Uses – pattern recognition, color meter, color matching/analyzer
* Proximity Sensor: Uses – touch sensor, water content, non contact sensing
* Expansion Connector: Possible Uses – EKG, pulse rate, thermal printers, R/C cars etc
So, as you can see, it’s a versatile little beast. The key thing about this device though, lies in the apps. The developers very cleverly built in a whole slew of developer options to encourage hobbyists and professionals to develop apps for Android and iOS which will work with this mega-sensor. They also offer an extension module which lets anyone use the device as a Bluetooth dongle for their own engineering project, or use the device as a sensor for their project, which could be pretty valuable for nerdy tinkerer types.
The product ships in a fairly basic box with just a simple user leaflet and bare instructions. Oh and a USB cable. Once you charge it up, it’s time to do the pairing with your phone, and after that download some apps and start playing. You can see our hands on review in the video below.
We received one of the very early models and initially had a lot of problems with pairing and battery life. The unit would only pair up with the handset if there was a W in the weekday name, or it was raining blue elephants. Likewise the battery life was somewhere short of 25 minutes, or so it felt. Luckily the developers have a robust update policy in place, and there have been several updates to the firmware which means that battery standby is now measured in days rather than hours, and the product actually pairs and connects fairly reliably.
There’s still more work needed, because it’s still got some glitches (connecting to a second app once you’ve used one, is a bit of a pain for example) but at least the developers appear to be committed to continued product development, which is a great sign. The same goes for apps. There have been numerous app releases over the past months since launch, and the count is now up to around eight or nine Android apps, with more to come.
There are a couple of things which make this an attractive product. First it has been developed by a company which clearly knows what it’s doing. The team make professional sensor products for the business world, so their engineering skills are excellent. The team is also clearly committed to building out a whole eco-system for this device, with apps, APIs, support and extendibility built in to the product road map. That’s an excellent route to take.
The negatives with the early glitches don’t take away from this vision, and while we still feel the product is not really a *great* product (designing a Bluetooth keychain product which has no off-switch to conserve battery life just strikes us as weird), it certainly looks as though it could be, with time and more attention to detail. If you’re in the market for a portable sensing device which can deliver some really unique functionality, then this is definitely something you should look at. It’s priced at $199.00 and the apps are free of charge.