These Researchers Want Your B.O. To Be The New ID

dog nose

In some of the strangest biometrics news I’ve heard recently, scientists are developing technology to track your body scent as part of a new security measure.

The team of researchers—the Group of Biometrics, Biosignals and Security (GB2S)—are working in tandem with Ilía Systems Ltd, a Spanish engineering consulting firm on this project out of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid.

The study itself revealed that an individual could be correctly identified via their body odour 85% of the time if in a group. They discovered that people have distinct patterns in their scent that remain fairly consistent. The group acknowledged that health and diet might alter a person’s scent, but they believe that their success rate proves the existence of a consistent individual odour. The system isn’t as accurate as the trained tracking noses of a hunting or police dog, but the system is able to detect extreme differences in scent.

In a press release from the Universidad, the group suggested that the technology might be used to detect the characteristic smells of certain diseases like colon cancer. I’m not as interested in developing an ID based on your unique body smell because I think it’s an invasion of privacy even if you have nothing to hide, but the idea of using this toward testing for diseases has me really jazzed.

My main issue with GB2S’ hope to use this technology at airport checkpoints and borders is the cost to privacy. The researchers aim is to better protect the security of innocent people, which I applaud, but I wonder what could be done with the records of these scents if they fell into the wrong hands, or if a person’s odour changed and their identity was questioned. Obviously this technology is still in its infancy, but it’ll be interesting to see what kind of fail-safes this program might have implemented in future uses.

//Photo by Flickr user Jason044.

Emma Fissenden is primarily a screenwriter-in-training, but spends a lot of time gaming, watching let's plays and staring longingly at her Steam account. The first games she remembers playing were Day of the Tentacle and Monkey Island, and she still has a fondness for DOS point and click games to this day. Emma also tweets at @efissenden when she should be finishing her MFA thesis.