You smell like someone I know…
05 February 2014 08:24 GMT

The power of smell could one day be used to recognise you

It is a biometric that raises a smile – and while it has been looked at in the past it has never experienced success. But body odour biometrics are making a come back thanks to work by researchers at the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, along with the Ilía Sistemas company.

Together the team is developing a system that would allow identification of people through their personal odour.

The research of the Group of Biometrics, Biosignals and Security (GB2S) of the Universidad Politécnica de Madrid (UPM) in collaboration with Ilía Sistemas SL unveils that there are recognizable patterns of each person's body odour that remain steady. Therefore, every person has his/hers own odour and this would allow his/her identification within a group of people at an accuracy rate higher than 85%.

According to the researchers this could lead to improved personal identification that is less invasive than other biometric techniques being used today.

People body odour identification is not a new idea - for over a century police forces have used bloodhound dogs to follow the trail of a person from a sample of their personal odour. Although the sensors used today have not yet achieved the accuracy of a dog's sense of smell, the research has used a system developed by the Ilí  Sistemas SL company that has a high sensitivity to detect volatile elements present in body odour.

Body odour can vary considerably because of disease, diet change or even mood swings. However, research carried out by the group showed that a group of 13 people during 28 sessions proved recognizable patterns from each person’s body odour – confirming identification at an error rate of 15%.

Although this research was conducted within the framework of the Emoción Proyect which is focused on citizen safety, body odour analysis can be used in many other fields. The team are collaborating on particular official projects that search for blood and breathe characteristics that can detect early signs of colon cancer and leukemia.

More information

RODRÍGUEZ-LUJÁN, I.; BAILADOR, G.; SÁNCHEZ-ÁVILA, C.; HERRERO, A; VIDAL DE MIGUEL, G. "Analysis of pattern recognition and dimensionality reduction techniques for odor biometrics". Knowledge-Based Systems 52 (279-289). DOI: 10.1016/j.knosys.2013.08.002. Nov. 2013.