CES 2016

Smell sensors are about to transform your kitchen, and life

By Oliver Smith 4 January 2017
Photo from iStock/selimaksan.

Smell is a technology that has eluded invention for years, until now.

Today you can record nearly every part of your life with sensors, from the temperature of your bedroom to your own heart rate, but there’s one human sense that these sensors still haven’t mastered.

Our sense of smell.

It’s a shame because, if invented, smell sensors could transform your life.

Your fridge might smell food that’s gone out of date, your smartphone would detect the early signs of disease or illness from the smell of your breath, and your bathroom could even… freshen itself, when the need arises.

But despite the potential, smell sensors have eluded even the most well-funded entrepreneurs and businesses, until now.

Aryballe showed off the portable version of this larger "optical nose" at CES this week.

The smell of progress

This week at CES a company called Aryballe Technologies showed off its first “optical nose” NeOse, which can profile a smell in 15-30 seconds and match that smell against other smells in its database.

The challenge up to now has been that smell is actually identifying particles, often hundreds or thousands that make up each smell – the smell of coffee for example has over 600 components.

Before you get too excited about this year’s iPhone coming with a NeOse sensor, Aryballe’s invention is firmly aimed at businesses for the time being.

With a cost in the region of $10,000 to $15,000 NeOse will first likely be used in the foods and cosmetics industries to quality control their products, says Aryballe.

But the NeOse sensor is a start, something that could one day lead us to a world where the connected devices and gadgets around us can’t just see, hear and feel us, they can smell us too.