Future Snapdragon-powered smartphones could be the closest thing we will get to tricorders, which we regularly see in Star Trek franchise. Tricorders are devices that could sense the surroundings and one of the features is the ability to analyse an object on the spot. Qualcomm is collaborating with Trinamix, a German company to allow smartphones to gather information about an object using cameras and various sensors. With a technology called molecular sensing, users can get more information about many things. It works with near-infrared spectroscopy and Qualcomm’s AI engine to capture and analyse molecular data. The combination of accurate scanning of materials and AI technology will bring things to the next level.
This technology should work on industrial, commercial and personal level. For average smartphone users, they can use molecular sensing to scan their skin and gain accurate information on a molecular level. They will get a near-instantaneous information about their current skin condition. The AI engine will provide recommendation on how to provide skin treatment. Recommendations could be based on the skin’s moisture and lipid measurements. It’s also possible to measure the level of sugar in food and this will help users to control their sugar intake. In commercial and industrial uses, people can enable the feature to check the quality of any surface or material. As an example, it could detect whether a silk is genuine or not.
Fortunately, Trinamix confirmed that existing smartphones could run the technology. The smartphone will need an IR module that will be integrated. it is probable that future smartphones with more advanced AI hardware modules and more accurate sensors would work better. Trinamix has provided examples about how the molecular sensing technology will be used. In coffee shops, the technology can measure the moisture and caffeine levels of coffee beans. When used for canning foods, the molecular sensing may measure the levels of carbohydrate, fat and protein. In industrial settings, the technology may determine the composition of a plastic item. It means, there are many B2B applications of this technology.
However, this technology is still at an early stage and Trinamix is still working on the final design. They will provide more detailed information after completing the reference designs. However, the module won’t be bigger than a regular CMOS camera. After the completion of the reference design, there will be an integration with smartphones. Qualcomm and Trinamix haven’t confirmed any release date, but it could be available for commercial uses in 2022. Recent Snapdragon chipsets are increasingly capable in terms of AI technology, especially the latest Snapdragon 888. There should be two more Snapdragon generations from Qualcomm in 2022, which will be even more advanced in artificial intelligence.
Molecular sensing isn’t a new technology in the mobile industry. A Chinese manufacturer, Changhong, announced the H2 in 2017 that has an integrated spectroscopic sensor. In theory, it allows app developers to scan food for sugar levels, fat levels in your body and others. Little is known about this smartphone model, because it wasn’t available in the International market. It was reportedly sold for $450 in China.