Developing a Phone that Knows When to be Quiet (or Loud)
By Eric Lin, Tue Sep 09 00:00:00 GMT 2003

Cell phone jamming equipment is becoming more pervasive around the globe- not just for military or government applications, but also for public areas where mobile phone use is discouraged such as live performances or places of worship. What if your phone knew when to be quiet instead?

Some models of mobile phones allow you to set a profile according to a time of day. You can have them be normal during the day, quiet at night, and loud on the weekends. The Microsoft Smartphone allows you to set your profile on Automatic so that whenever you have an appointment scheduled, the profile will shift from the current state to Meeting for the duration of the appointment. Smart Mobs have collected information on researchers at Carnegie Mellon University who are developing a phone that will set the profile on its own according to a number of sensors that determine what you (and your phone) are currently doing.

The system uses two microphones- one for the user and one for ambient noise, a light sensor and an accelerometer to determine a user's situation. The device then tries to determine the appropriate profile: busy and not to be interrupted, physically active, idle and "normal." Their goal is a noble one. How often do we forget to shut off our ringers in the theatre or turn them up when we're outside? However I suspect it will take more than just a light sensor and microphones to determine whether we're having a chat with our friends vs. a talk with our boss or that important client.