Security sensors sniff out potential intruders

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A potentially foolproof security system which recognises a person's body odour is being developed by a British electronics company.

The system known as Scentinel is able to sniff out intruders by analysing their BO, which is unique to every individual.

The machine has an electronic nose with sensors which can "smell" the hand of a person trying to enter a secure area.

If the smell is wrong and cannot be recognised, the visitor is not allowed through.

The system, designed by technicians at Mastiff Electronics, of Cranleigh, Surrey, with the help of biochemists at the University of Leeds, should be ready for commercial production in about a year.

Scentinel, expected to sell at between pounds 10,000 and pounds 20,000 per unit, is the latest example of a "biometric" security system.

A "biometric" is a unique physical characteristic or personal trait used to recognise the identity of an individual.

Other biometric security systems already in use involve methods of recognising faces, voices, eyes, fingerprints and signatures.

One of the strangest which is still in the development stage is a French system for recognising people by the shape of their ears.

The makers of Scentinel claim the body odour system will be virtually foolproof because everyone's smell is genetically unique.

A working prototype has already been produced and shown that the system works.

In the finished model, the hand would either be held on a grid above a row of sensors or placed inside a box within an airstream.

Crucially, it makes no difference if the person has been handling perfume or garlic or anything else with a strong aroma.

Peter Puttick, research and development manager at Mastiff Electronics, said: "The sensors respond to chemical compounds coming off your skin, but these are not necessarily the ones our noses would respond to.

"We are talking about a group of compounds which are mixed in different ways according to our genetic make-up. The machine recognises these molecules and can tell if the individual is who he says he is.

"Many other biometric techniques are used as an extra validity check, but Scentinel would be a high security access system in itself. We think it could have applications in the military or in other areas where security is important, for instance where valuable items are stored."

A review of biometric systems was recently produced by Emma Newham, a technology expert and editor of Biometric Technology Today.

She concluded: "Biometrics will not only displace the PIN in established markets, they can provide increased security in many new areas where the PIN, the password and the photo-ID card are not viable."