Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Homeland Security is Seeking "Electronic Nose" Technology for Biological Threat Detection

    Dogs have been used by law enforcement for tracking and detection for generations.  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently sought to compile all available information on the electronic equivalent of a dog's nose.  The inquiry was part of a larger effort to assess the pros and cons of actual canine use in biological detection as well as the state of the art in "electronic nose" technology.  The program is spelled out in a Sources Sought document from DHS's Office of the Chief Procurement Officer:
The Department of Homeland Security, Office of Health Affairs (OHA), has reached out to DHS S&T for assistance with technology foraging related to the use of canines for detection of biological threats. Despite countless past research efforts, there currently still does not exist an "electronic nose" that can rival a well-trained canine for detection of vapor signatures. The electronic sensoring community understands that the development of an "electronic nose", modeled after a canine olfactory system, would provide a leap-ahead sensing technology.
    DHS is only looking for information at this point and does not intend to make any purchases or award any contracts.  Respondents were encouraged to submit "white papers" or Powerpoint presentations on "past and current research and development (R&D) efforts or commercial off the shelf products in the area of 'electronic noses'; past and current efforts focused on using canines as potential detection solutions; canine training services; and canine maintenance requirements."
    This source gathering effort was, in their words, part of the DHS's "quest to make America safer."  To that end, DHS made it clear that all applicable information was welcome:
If a source does not have specific information applicable to detection of biological materials but has information regarding use of canines for detection of other materials (chemical, explosive, narcotics) and feels that the information is transferable to the detection of biomaterials, that information would also be of interest.
    In the past, other government agencies have sought to make use of not only an "electronic nose," but an "electronic tongue," as well.  These were for use in food and beverage testing and evaluation, however, not in connection with law enforcement or threat detection.

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