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Jellyfish-like airport security sensors could smell COVID-19

11 May 2020

Airbus plans to install game-changing “smell sensors” at airports.

(Image: Airbus)

Airbus and Koniku have been working together on the technical solution since 2017, but it was originally designed to detect explosive and chemical threats at airports – providing an automatic alternative to sniffer dogs and enhancing security operations at airports. 

“The technology has a very quick response time of under 10 seconds in best conditions,” Julien Touzeau, Head of Product Security for the Americas at Airbus, told The Financial Times.

However, in light of the coronavirus crisis, Airbus plans to repurpose and expand its capabilities to identify “biological hazards” – diseases, such as COVID-19. 

“Most infections and diseases cause slight changes to the composition of our breath and sweat, which then produce distinct odours. If we can detect those odours, we can detect the presence of those infections,” explained Osh. Agabi, Founder and of CEO Koniku Inc. on his blog

According to the official statement, “The technical solution … uses genetically engineered odorant receptors that produce an alarm signal when they come into contact with the molecular compounds of the hazard or threat that they have been programmed to detect”.

When airports eventually re-open for general use, the innovative technology could be deployed to prevent the disease’s resurgence.

“By programming the DNA of the cells that make up these receptors to react to the compounds that appear in infected people’s breath or sweat, we believe we will be able to quickly and reliably screen for COVID-19 and determine whether a person is infected,” Agabi continued.

Agabi claimed this contactless protective system is easy to use and can be implemented on a large scale. Passengers will be screened quickly and efficiently as they walk through an enclosed corridor filled with “smell-bots”.

He hopes to expand the usage of these smell sensors to everyday use, allowing people to detect diseases, such as cancer, in the early stages.

“You wake up in the morning, you breathe on our device, and we are collecting that data and we are analysing, in a longitudinal fashion, your state of health. That is one of our big visions,” he told The Financial Times.


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