A new “nose” for your fridge may be able to sniff out spoiled food before you do.
The NeOse smell recorder aims to help detect food which may cause illness before it is consumed.
New Technology Development
Computers have long been able to detect movement, allowing them to see. They are also getting fairly advanced at hearing our audio commands. But smell is one area that seems to have evaded them – until now.
Smell sensors are a tricky area to work with as they are fundamentally different to the other senses. At this year’s CES, one company which has taken up the challenge is Aryballe Technologies, and they were keen to show off what they have come up with. The so-called optical nose, NeOse, was on show at the event.
The device is the second prototype that they have come up with, and is called the NeOse Pro. It works in conjunction with an iPhone app, and requires you to point a tube at one of the odours coming out of your fridge. Within 30 seconds, the app will have the results for you about what it has smelled. There are chemical sensors as well as an optical system which will process the molecules of scent against a database of previously recorded smells put together by the team. As the app is used more often, other companies can also record their own scents. For example, a yoghurt manufacturer might record the smell of their yoghurt when it is fine to eat and when it is not.
Aryballe are not the first to come up with a scent detector along these lines, but they say that it is the most portable and flexible yet.
While you might be thinking about using one for your own fridge, it is actually those in chef jobs who will get the most use out of them. The NeOse is aimed at businesses rather than consumers, as it will allow restaurants and supermarkets to ensure that their food is all fit for consumption.
The price might be the first point to cue this understanding: it is set for retail at between $10,000 and $15,000. The cosmetics industry may also be able to use the device by recording the ideal smells for their products and then setting up a quality control system with the NeOse. It can also be used to test the air quality in an urban environment, or to detect a waste management leak at a processing facility.
It’s unlikely that we will be buying personal smell detectors any time soon, but it is possible that this technology could come to be integrated into the products that we already buy. Imagine a fridge which will automatically tell you if something is off, rather than having to wait until you have pointed a device at it. If the technology continues to grow, it could be that smell detectors become as common as light or sound detectors, and as unremarkable. That future is still a long way away, however, as this early prototype demonstrates.
Hilariously, members of the press were unable to get a demonstration of the NeOse at CES, as the Wi-Fi capabilities at the show were not strong enough to connect to the app. Still, this is a key piece of tech for anyone looking for food careers to keep an eye on. Within the next few years, we could be ready to see this used on a regular basis in food production and as part of quality control measures. Factories in particular could make good use of it.
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