Could bomb-sniffing dogs one day find they’re no longer required in airports? It might happen if the “electronic nose” device being tested by Airbus eventually makes its way into mainstream use. According to a new report, they’ll start appearing in airport screening tunnels later this year.
The Financial Times writes that the jellyfish-like devices are the work of Silicon Valley startup Koniku. In addition to its odor surveillance system, the company is also developing drones to detect buried IEDs and taste-sensitive devices to improve quality assurance in the agriculture industry.
What’s especially amazing about Koniku’s bomb-sniffing tech is that it utilizes living cells “We have developed a technology that is able to detect smell — it’s breathing the air, and it’s essentially telling you what’s in the air,” Koniku’s founder, Oshiorenoya Agabi, told the Financial Times (via Engadget). “What we do is we take biological cells, either Hek cells or astrocytes — brain cells — and we genetically modify them to have olfactory receptors.” They also have a very quick response time of under 10 seconds in best conditions.
Airbus and Koniku are also looking at using the technology to detect biological threats such as contagious viruses, which could give consumers more confidence to return to the skies once the Covid-19 restrictions on flights are lifted. They could also be used in medical fields, including cancer detection. “You wake up in the morning, you breathe on our device… and we are analyzing, in a longitudinal fashion, your state of health. That is one of our big visions,” Agabi said.
Airbus has been working with Koniku for three years now, and said they plan to create “a game-changing, end-to-end security solution.” If it works as intended, they could be right.