Sniff out the new electronic nose
Updated: Oct 19, 2021
We rely on our sense of smell so much
When our sense of smell is lost, for whatever reason, we experience a profound impact including a loss of appetite. Of course, loss of smell is a symptom of Covid 19, and some sufferers are yet to regain this capacity, which is more than inconvenient.
Have you ever considered how much you rely on smell to protect yourself?
We all discover items lurking in the back of the fridge and give them a good sniff to assess their usability. It’s something to which we don’t give much thought but in Singapore at the Nanyang Technological University they have been dedicating huge amounts of time to just that. Now the team have just announced that they have invented an artificial olfactory system or e-nose for the sake of simplicity.
How does an e-nose work?
This electronic nose is equivalent to a dynamic barcode. This barcode reacts to gases emitted by meat as it begins to decay. As the gases change so does the colour of the barcode reader, just like litmus paper its colour gives off important information.
Photo: Agathe Marty
How accurate could an e-nose be?
Our noses, as a rule, are extremely sensitive to all kinds of nuances when it comes to smell. The electronic version relies on artificial intelligence and a smartphone app to ascertain the freshness of meat. In fact, it has been trained so well that accuracy is almost 100% losing out by just 1.5% from full marks. It can even predict freshness as it has information gleaned from a huge number of barcodes.
e-noses have an increased accuracy of 30% over other solutions
Think of its use in the meat and fish processing industries and all part of the supply chain. The e-nose has already been tested rigorously on packed meats and fish that were left to start the ageing process. It came out with a resounding 98.5% accuracy which potentially makes it a real game changer for the food industry. It has improved on the usual type of algorithm to gain this level of accuracy. The e-nose utilises a ‘deep convolutional neural network AI algorithm.’ This increases accuracy by more than 30%.
An e-nose could help us solve the best before/ use by conundrum
At the moment this e-nose has only had its first outing in a scientific journal paper during late 2020. However, if its accuracy is as suggested so far, then the reduction in food wastage could be significant. The whole concept of 'display by', 'use by' and 'best before' date have caused much confusion. Often people throw out food just to be safe rather than sorry. With this kind of dynamic barcode clearly visible people would have confidence in their food. In addition, all parts of the bar code are food safe so they can be used at all times as food is produced, packed, delivered and stored. Photo: Jez Timms
Right now, the method is being patented and the University team are working alongside an agribusiness based in Singapore. Their aim is to develop the method further to include foods like dairy, cheese and other perishable items.
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