Startup sets sights on scent as new frontier for smartphone apps

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Haifa-based Nanoscent says its technology will help you choose a perfume — and find love

Your smartphone may soon be able to identify and analyze scent as easily as it scans a QR code or recognizes a voice.

A Haifa-based company, Nanoscent, has developed an electronic nose that can detect odors and flavors through a smartphone.

As an extra bonus, the technology might also help jump-start your love life, the company says.

Co-founded by Oren Gavriely and Eran Rom, Nanoscent is developing a smartphone app that, used together with a chip called a “scent recorder,” can determine users’ scent profile and help them select products, e.g., cosmetics, perfumes and soaps, best suited for them.

The sensor, which at the moment exists separately from the smartphone, will eventually be incorporated into the devices, Gavriely, who is also the CEO,  said.

Made up of nanoparticles, the sensor emits different signals based on the smell it is exposed to.

Nanoscent’s technology uses the interactions between the sensor and the chemical substances emitted from our body to generate a distinct pattern, or fingerprint, for each scent.

It then uses this data to train its algorithm to identify different kinds of smells.

Nanoscent’s scent analyzer which collects data from a scent sample. (Courtesy)

Once developed, the technology would possibly be the first that would allow smartphones to have the sense of smell, he said.

“Combining scent with technological innovation is something that hasn’t yet been explored or fully realized,” said Gavriely.

Even though our sense of smell strongly impacts how we think, feel and remember, it’s not a part of the existing ecosystem of smartphone devices, which use voice activation, facial recognition, and motion detection to enhance our lives, Gavriely said.

Integrating scent recognition technology into devices such as smartphones can help to us to find solutions to many human problems, he added.

The company is in parallel developing a matchmaking application that can determine people’s compatibility based on their scent profiles, Gavrieli said.

Nanoscent has collected 3,000-4,000 scent samples from 100 couples to create a “map of attraction,” having studied couples married or together for at least a year to set up a baseline.

The technology identified the smells of each individual in the couple, and created a map of smells that were attractive and best suited to the other.

“We determined that people with these scents have a greater chance of being together,” Gavrieli said.

They then trained their machine learning algorithm to detect the various scents, and thus to identify potential matches.

Nanoscent expects to launch both products this year,Gavriely said.

The inventor of Nanoscent’s core technology, Dr. Hossam Haick professor at the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology (Courtesy)

The core technology behind Nanoscent was invented by Hossam Haick, an Arab Israeli professor at the Department of Chemical Engineering and the Russell Berrie Nanotechnology Institute at the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.

Haick, the company’s chief scientific officer, first used the technology to detect breast cancer in patients by recognizing the changes in the smell of breast tissue nearly ten years ago.

The firm’s technology is already being used to identify pregnancy in cows, the quality of medical cannabis and the presence of drugs in prison, said Gavriely.

The future scope of the technology is “wide open,” Gavriely said, citing such uses as smart building applications for the proper maintenance of bathrooms, culinary businesses that want to record smells, automobile companies that want to use scent to influence drivers, and companies interested in enhancing sleep by using scent.

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