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Ancy K Sunny
Ancy K Sunny


Scent of data


In the age of digital, a threat to personal data is everyone's secret nightmare. What if we could sense potential data breaches? Perhaps, smell threat to data?

The Smell of Data project has devised a 'scent' that will alert users on data leakage. Concerned with data leaks and data security risks on the internet, the product was created by Dutch artist and designer Leanne Wijnsma and filmmaker Froukje Tan. "The sense of smell helped early humans to survive. But now that our hunting and gathering has moved to the digital environment, our noses can no longer warn us of the lurking dangers in the online wilderness," reads the intro on the Smell of Data website.

The designers were inspired by an explosion in Texas in 1937 that was triggered by an unnoticed gas leak. After this incident, Ethanethiol, a colourless gas with a distinct odour was artificially added to odourless gas to detect leaks and initiate action.

How do we respond to the smell of a gas leak? It alerts us and we know exactly what to do. It is this human response to the smell of gas leak that the team aims to bring back through smell of data. The device comprises of a grenade-shaped scent bottle which releases a metallic scent when a users' data is at stake.

With increasing vulnerability of digital platforms, and risk to personal data, the device is designed to be connected to smartphones, laptops and tablets. When users access an unprotected website or WiFi, the device releases the scent as a warning in case of potential risk to data.

But, what does data smell like? That is a difficult question and very intriguing too. The team wanted a scent that didn't smell too nice because it was meant as a warning signal. Wijnsma developed various scents in her kitchen, and then her laboratory and sent her samples to ScentAir in the US which helped the team develop the final 'smell of data.'

Wijnsma and Tan launched the project in September at the Science Museum in London and are set to present it at the Dutch Design Week which runs from October 22-30.

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The Week

Topics : #technology

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