What is an Electronic Nose and Do They Exist Yet?

Electronic Nose

Given their name, it should come as no surprise to learn that electronic noses are devices that can be used to detect smells. However, it is interesting to note that electronic noses can detect tastes as well, which is perhaps unsurprising for people who remember that our senses of smell and taste are both reliant on receptors that are reacting to the molecules that come into contact with them. Regardless, electronic noses are not restricted to the realm of science fiction but can be found out there in the real world in a wide range of places under a wide range of circumstances.

What Do Electronic Noses Look Like in the Present?

Generally speaking, an electronic nose has three systems of paramount importance. First, there is the system that is responsible for producing the sample so that it can be sent on for study. Second, there is the system that consists of the sensors that pick up on the smells of the sample. Third, there is the system that is used to represent those results in a manner that is more comprehensible for interested individuals. Something that is particularly important because the way that a machine interprets a smell isn’t going to be intuitive for humans and vice versa, meaning that there needs to be a system that can be used to bridge the gap in understanding in order to ensure actual usefulness.

Of course, while electronic noses share these general characteristics, there can still be significant differences from one example to the next. For instance, electronic noses have been known to use a wide range of sensors, with examples ranging from metal-oxide-semiconductor devices to olfactory receptors that have been cloned from those of biological organisms. Moreover, improvements are being made on a regular basis, meaning that more and more options are becoming available with more and more options built into them.

Currently, electronic noses have already started seeing use in a wide range of contexts. For example, one person might use an electronic nose to pick up on subtle signs of spoilage when examining the food products that have been sent to a retailer. Likewise, another person might use an electronic nose to compare raw materials with a reference sample in order to make sure that their business’s production process is receiving consistent inputs. For the time being, electronic noses are still relatively primitive in nature, meaning that they are expected to see more and more use with future improvements.

What Are the Upsides of Electronic Noses?

For those who are curious, electronic noses are expected to become more and more popular because they possess some huge upsides when compared to their human counterparts. First, electronic noses produce exact results. This is important because human noses lack that same kind of precision, as shown by whenever someone mistakes one smell for another. There is no such potential for error when it comes to electronic noses, thus making them that much better-suited for use under circumstances in which even small errors can result in very expensive consequences.

Second, electronic noses produce consistent results. In part, this is because different people can interpret the same smell in different ways, not least because the language for describing smells is so inexact in nature. However, it should also be noted that it is perfectly possible for some people to have either stronger or weaker senses of smell than others, whether because they were born with such a sense of smell or because they came by it because of their experiences. Combined, these make electronic noses both more effective and more efficient by nature because subjectivity introduces a whole host of complications that come with additional costs and other considerations.

Third, electronic noses are reliable in a way that human noses can never hope to be. For instance, it is possible for people to get used to the smells that they are exposed to, with the result that their sense of smell becomes less and less reliable. In contrast, electronic noses will always provide the same results so long as other factors remain unchanged. On top of this, it should be noted that electronic noses can be used in cases that would be very hazardous for humans, with an excellent example being the detection of substances that can pose a serious threat to human health.

Fourth, while electronic noses are being based on the human sense of smell, they can be developed beyond such limitations. As a result, it isn’t difficult to imagine devices being made that can pick up on substances that can’t be detected by human noses, thus making them more useful under a wider range of circumstances as well.

How Do Electronic Noses Compare with Dogs?

Some people might be wondering how electronic noses compare with those of dogs. After all, dogs combine an excellent sense of smell with the ability to be trained by humans, meaning that they see use in some of the same contexts in which electronic noses are either already useful or could become useful in the not too distant future. However, similar to how electronic noses are better than human noses, they possess a number of advantages over those of their canine counterparts as well.

For instance, electronic noses are a cheaper solution that provides more value than dogs. After all, an electronic nose can be used again and again without interruption because it isn’t a living being that needs food, water, and rest from its exertions. As such, it isn’t exactly difficult to see why people might prefer electronic noses, particularly in contexts in which the presence of dog can be either bothersome or otherwise problematic. Besides this, it should be mentioned that electronic noses can provide their users with much more feedback than dogs. Certainly, dogs are incredibly good at understanding humans and vice versa, but at the end of the day, they are still very far from the point when they can communicate more detailed information about what they are detecting to their human companions. Something that isn’t as much of an issue with a properly designed and built electronic nose.


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