The Electronic Nose Knows

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The human nose contributes to everything from the experience of flavor to the association of scent with memory. Even more remarkable, a dog’s nose can be used to identify the faintest of smells thanks to a specialized portion of the canine brain that is 40 times larger than humans.

As technology has evolved, scientists are taking a closer look at this unique ability for scents to be used for identification.

Today, expertise in areas like DNA-based receptors and nano-manufacturing sensors are being applied to the “electronic nose,” a technology that has the potential to revolutionize fields like medicine and biometrics.


Since ancient times, biometrics has used a range of human characteristics to establish a person’s identity – from handprints used as signatures in cave paintings to the modern-day practice of taking fingerprints.  

But as society’s security needs have grown, so has the need for quicker, more reliable methods of identity confirmation that are vital to public safety. Security agencies like law enforcement rely on fast, accurate processing of information to identify and apprehend suspects before they can slip away – or commit another crime.

Lockheed Martin is applying research to areas like the electronic nose in order to “sniff” a fingerprint and detect things like body odor, drugs or explosives that can be associated with the fingerprint. In addition, an imaging system can visualize latent prints on multiple surfaces in real time, without altering or touching the prints. This preserves any scents or DNA on the print and adds to the useful evidence.





The most well-known technology associated with fingerprint identification technology has advanced dramatically in recent years, while other biometric identifiers have come into wider use.

In addition to fingerprints, physiological features like palm prints, facial features, DNA, odors, iris and voice characteristics are all able to help in identification. Other biometrics, including behavioral characteristics such as walking gait, writing style and online behavior, can also be used as identifiers.

For a range of scenarios, organizations such as the FBI need reliable biometric capabilities. Lockheed Martin recently developed the FBI’s Next Generation Identification system, which provides biometric investigative tools to more than 18,000 local, state, tribal, territorial and federal law enforcement agencies across the United States.

Beyond law enforcement, biometrics can provide authentication services for fields like emergency services or first responders, who can benefit from speedy access to secure systems during emergencies. These capabilities include facial recognition, cardiopulmonary pattern monitoring, and voice verification and commanding.




Along with these mobile uses of biometrics, the method for delivering biometric services is also evolving. An “identity as a service” concept uses cloud-based offerings for next generation multi-modal identification service.

Through a network of world-class laboratories, the team is finding new ways to develop and integrate biometric data, devices and applications.