Nose job: smells are smart sensors' last frontier

Thu Jun 23, 2016 10:26am EDT
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Jeremy Wagstaff

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Phones or watches may be smart enough to detect sound, light, motion, touch, direction, acceleration and even the weather, but they can't smell.

That's created a technology bottleneck that companies have spent more than a decade trying to fill. Most have failed.

A powerful portable electronic nose, says Redg Snodgrass, a venture capitalist funding hardware start-ups, would open up new horizons for health, food, personal hygiene and even security.

Imagine, he says, being able to analyze what someone has eaten or drunk based on the chemicals they emit; detect disease early via an app; or smell the fear in a potential terrorist. "Smell," he says, "is an important piece" of the puzzle.

It's not through lack of trying. Aborted projects and failed companies litter the aroma-sensing landscape. But that's not stopping newcomers from trying.

Like Tristan Rousselle's Grenoble-based Aryballe Technologies, which recently showed off a prototype of NeOse, a hand-held device he says will initially detect up to 50 common odors. "It's a risky project. There are simpler things to do in life," he says candidly.

MASS, NOT ENERGY   Continued...

 
Aryballe Technologies CEO Tristan Rousselle shows a prototype of NeOse, a universal portable odour detection device connected to a database on a mobile phone, in Paris, April 20, 2016. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann