The British Association for the Advancement of Science: BO alerts electronic sniffer

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The Independent Online
AN ELECTRONIC sniffer dog named Bloodhound could help police pick out a suspect by identifying the unique 'smellprint' of their body odour.

The device relies on the unique nature of an individual's sweat. This is formed from many chemical components, mixed in proportions that differ in each person. The device's 'nose' records the characteristic chemical make-up of the sweat, or 'odourgram', and stores it.

A handful of other 'artificial noses' already exist, but these have concentrated on smelling for industry - such as sniffing out food that has gone rotten, or contaminated raw materials. One, on sale in Japan and called 'Iki Iki', can pick up bad breath.

The Bloodhound was developed by Barbara Sommerville, a scientist at Cambridge University. She has a keen interest in BO, and in the genetic basis of individual smells. Her research could help to explain which part of a person's coded, genetic blueprint is responsible for their smell.

Dr Sommerville launched Bloodhound at the British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Loughborough, Leicestershire, yesterday. She told the meeting that the principles behind her device could be developed to produce personal fertility monitors, nicknamed the Vatican Nose. This would detect changes, from her smellprint, in a woman's fertility during her monthly cycle.

Bloodhound, which is expected to go on sale early next year, has promising potential as a forensic science aid for police, who might consider building up a smellprint database of known criminals. 'If you had data on a group of suspected terrorists, and the police arrested someone at an airport, the Bloodhound could see if their smell matched that of suspects.'

Dr Sommerville did not think Bloodhound at its current, early stage of development, could replace real police dogs. These have extremely well-developed smelling abilities that enable them to recognise smells, tiny samples taken from scraps of clothing, or even a car steering wheel.

Bloodhound was developed with funds from Mastiff Electronic Systems, and will be sold through Leeds University.