Is smartphone evolution at a standstill? Today's batch of phones have ultra-sharp displays, zippy performance, and great cameras. What's left? One man hopes that the next big thing will be infrared sensors.

Taking children's temperatures can be a pain. No matter which orifice you stick the thermometer in, the kid will probably pitch a fit. With so much of our tech being airborne, why not add thermometers to the list?

Inventor Jacob Fraden has patented the smartphone thermometer. He wants manufacturers to equip phones with infrared sensors. You could then aim at your little one's head, and have her temperature in less than a second.

New doors

Temperature-taking wouldn't be limited to humans. You could use it on pets (another pesky chore), or inanimate objects like stoves or bathtubs.

It sounds promising. The small infrared lens would lie near the smartphone's camera, without any protrusions. Fraden says that results are accurate, falling within International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards. He adds that the manufacturing cost would be "incremental."

Imagine the other uses for a smartphone infrared sensor. We could see apps for detecting gas leaks, home security (infrared tripwires), or even breathalyzer alcohol tests. These weren't covered by Fraden's patent, but once the hardware is there, developers' imaginations could go wild.

Not so fast

Fraden is pitching his innovation to smartphone manufacturers, but that's far from a guarantee that we'll see this. How many patents are granted for technology that never sees the light of day?

It's also possible that we will have infrared smartphones, but Fraden's thermometer patents won't be necessary. Apple already has an infrared smartphone patent, and you can buy third-party IR add-ons.

There are other costs. At 5 mm wide and 5 mm deep, the sensor would take up precious internal space. Light and thin is sexier than a thermometer, so you can imagine where most smartphone makers' priorities would lie.

Wait and see

Still, with the list of obvious smartphone upgrades dwindling, we'd be surprised if somebody didn't license Fraden's innovation ... whether it will be in a phone that you'd want is another question. New parents, however, may already be waiting in line.

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