HP Labs announced the development of a new accelerometer sensor that is 1,000 times more sensitive than those used in current mass-produced devices such as the iPhone and many others. The sensor was built as part of the company's CeNSE (Central Nervous System for the Earth) research program, which intends to build a global sensing network to measure and track changes in a wide range of things around the world.
The idea behind the program is that having more advanced and ubiquitous sensors will lead to an information ecosystem that aids better decision making, lower energy use, and more efficient use of resources. The first commercial application for HP's technology will be a wireless seismic sensor network that Shell Oil will use to detect underground oil reserves and drill more efficiently.
The sensors will be relatively cheap to produce in large quantities. It's unclear when or if they'll become common place in future consumer electronics, showing up in smartphones and games consoles for example. One of HP's main goals for the sensors is for them to be used in city-level projects. The company envisions sensing nodes about the size of a pushpin stuck to bridges and buildings to warn of structural strains or weather conditions, and scattered along roadsides to monitor traffic, weather and road conditions.