Scent Biometric

Here's a new biometric

Recognizable body odor patterns remain constant enough over time to allow people to be identified with an accuracy rate of 85 percent.

Not yet good enough for most applications, but presumably this kind of thing can only get more accurate.

EDITED TO ADD (3/14): The Stasi used to preserve individual odor samples for tracking.

Posted on March 6, 2014 at 5:28 AM • 25 Comments

Comments

BaptisteMarch 6, 2014 5:59 AM

Isn't it exactly the kind of element that can be stolen from someone to impersonate him ?

If it is used in 'airports, border checkpoints, …', we may have to worry about it.

TIMMarch 6, 2014 6:12 AM

If not today, then tomorrow there will be drones that use electronic noses (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_nose) to identify a specific person as target. I know of such technology that is already in use to find illegal drug plantation.

jonMarch 6, 2014 6:47 AM

In other news from my dog:
"Walks are great we should go for more walks, lets go for one right now. Yeah Walk Walk Walk!"
And
"Smelling a dogs butt can tell you a lot about them... like what their but smells like."

kashmarekMarch 6, 2014 7:40 AM

Have you noticed where dogs sniff other dogs to capture information. And, dog olfactory recptors are thousands of times more powerful than human capabilities.

Using specific drug sensor(s) to detect drug plantations (and probably drug processing) is significantly easier since a suitable sample can probably be acquired with miles and miles of flyover.

However, the odor combination for a specific human being, especially after a shower and application of deodorant, seems unlikely from any position that the human nose can't detect it. It particular, that odor would likely change if the subject (perp?) were working out (or just working), if the temperature was hot (or cold), or the subject had ingested a sufficient quantity of flavor emitting substances (food, beer, etc.), such as to change the signature. And, age will also do pretty much the same thing (you know, old people smell). Further, just what is the odor signature of a "bad" guy? Probably pretty much the same as everybody else. Or, is that signature a "secret" (like the no fly list) so that it can't be challenged?

Along with the plethora of other such "identification" fantasies out there, I sense FUD.

kronosMarch 6, 2014 7:46 AM

@ kashmarek just what is the odor signature of a "bad" guy

If I were a gambler, I would think the U.S. government will at some point spend millions of tax-payer dollars on exactly such research. And if the results go beyond the prototype stage we will "enjoy" it at airports, train stations and various security check points across the nation. I'll just have to remember to avoid spicy Thai food a day or two prior to going through said check points. ;^)

paulMarch 6, 2014 8:22 AM

The two big questions are a) how to get from 85 to 99.9 or whatever you need for real use and b) how to keep the algorithms secret so they can't be spoofed. Good luck with those.

uh, MikeMarch 6, 2014 8:40 AM

Lost a family member to kidney disease. Remember Target targeting pregnant daughters with baby coupons? What becomes the responsibility of the operator of a device that identifies people who are seriously ill and may not know it?

MatthiadMarch 6, 2014 12:24 PM

Dogs I trust tell me that underwear I've worn for a day smells just like me. I would assume that the weakness of this biometric is similar to that of fingerprint sensors and biometrics in general. It's very hard to make sure that the biometric presented to the sensor is live.

vas pupMarch 6, 2014 2:45 PM

For security application it is prospective to identify increased level of stress hormone in a body odor when person going through clearance check point.
May be two-step procedure could be applied:
on the first step - not stressful questioning to catch base line of stress hormone, on the second step - test/sensitive questioning to catch changes in the level of stress hormone.

RoxanneMarch 6, 2014 3:04 PM

A) Your dog could have told you this years ago. B) Now you have to guard your dirty laundry.

jonMarch 6, 2014 3:45 PM

The East German Stasi pioneered this. They maintained a scent library, with mason jars containing scraps of clothing from each of their enemies of the state. This allowed them to get their bloodhounds up to speed quickly, if they ever had to track you down.

vas pupMarch 6, 2014 3:55 PM

@Crocodile Chuck: Thank you for your posting. I did not have right now official prove or link to check, but increased cortisol level could be detected by predator (lion, tiger) out of the breath of potential human target. Anecdotally, predator jump on the human target only after smelling cortisol (in nature setting).

PrumbleMarch 6, 2014 7:46 PM

In the EU common serious crime forensic protocols say to place an odor absorbing material and then seal off the scene for several hours before doing anything else. Using dogs, the sample can later be compared with a suspect's scent.

DBMarch 7, 2014 12:15 AM

So what's next? secret sensors installed in every washing machine sending smell data to the government cataloging everyone's smell? This may sound crazy, but is it any worse than what's already been happening? I mean, seriously, tracking the location every second of every day of every person via cell phone triangulation? really?

Ged CarrollMarch 7, 2014 2:06 AM

I don’t see why this is news. It is already working using biotechnology for detection in many high security locations, it’s called a guard dog.

kashmarekMarch 7, 2014 7:19 AM

I am laughing out loud and rolling on the floor. I hadn't thought of placing the sensor in the washing machine (or the laundry hamper, under the toilet lid, or in the driver's seat of the car). Of course, all of the deodorizers on the planet shouldn't have any effect on this at all. All of us and everything will start to smell the same.

vas pupMarch 7, 2014 9:31 AM

Another security related application of smell (recently presented on 'Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman'). It was discovered that providing during the sleep disgusting smells and simultaneously audio information related to particular person/idea/event could change to the opposite (from sympathy to disgust) after waking up attitude of the 'sleeping person' to that idea/event/person because smell only is directly going to the brain acceptance bypassing all other filter/block of other sensory systems during the sleep and established strong associative link. Now it is in the research step only, but sooner or later our (and not our as well) Intelligence will utilize it to reprogramming/brainwashing.
Time and again, technology and science are neutral, goal of application make them good or evil.

BarneyMarch 7, 2014 10:55 AM

85 percent might not yet good be enough for most applications by itself, but it could probably useful as part of a system that combines several different pieces of information to get an overall idea of how likely someone is to have a given identity.

vas pupMarch 11, 2014 12:37 PM

New applications of smell for diagnostic of deceases including mental:
http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26472225
Sooner or later results of job interview (in security details for high ranking officials and data processing in particular) will depend on your health (based on smell analysis). That smell analysis is here and now versus DNA for the same purpose which is just future possibility + collection of smell is distant and hidden.
I see possibility of future application of that for smell lie detector as well. DARPA & INQTEL will do their move.

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