Fingerprints, irises, voice recognition… and smell?
A person’s inherent, unique odor could join the trifecta of biometric mainstays in years to come if the science of B.O. catches on in the realm of I.D.
Such an identification method is one dogs have utilized since the beginning of time – with olfactory glands 30 to 60 times more powerful and interpretive than humans (depending on the breed), dogs can’t function without their noses. Just as we predominantly use our eyes and acute vision to categorize and navigate the world, canines use their super-powered snouts.
Researchers at Polytechnic University of Madrid are trying to emulate this profound power of pairing people with aromas. Their quest is to make technology act just like a dog, setting up sensory locks that take a whiff of you to verify identity instead of visually scanning a body part.
Because smells are so much more complex to the human brain than visual or audible information, olfaction-based biometric security could prove to be a particularly robust form of locking devices or doors.
According to researchers, the digital noses of the biometric machine prototype design can filter confounding scents out of the equation, correctly smelling and identifying unique, personal aromas through colognes, perfumes, makeup, deodorants, laundry detergent, and any other of the myriad of smelly substances that stick to our bodies throughout the day. The current prototype can accurately identify individuals 85 percent of the time. It also accounts for personal scent changes that come about as results of diet changes, stress levels and disease. Just walking past a sensor is more than enough for a decent reading.
The recent work by Polytechnic University of Madrid isn’t the only contemporary science dealing with smells. A new smell-based wrist watch unveiled earlier this month called Scent Rhythm emits fragrances to let its wearer know what time it is. Adjusting to its owner’s sleep-wake cycle, Scent Rhythm could, for example, blast users with the fragrance of coffee in the morning, money in the afternoon, chocolate in the evening, and relaxing chamomile late at night.
Before this year, the only news that focused on smell-based technology was Google’s tongue-in-cheek April Fool’s ad campaign, Google Nose which, purported to let searchers query results and pair scents with pictures. Of course it was a complete farce – but it’s nonetheless interesting to ponder how technology can be improved to react with our god-given senses for purer mind-machine interaction.
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