The Stasi (the East German secret police) collected body odour samples from those suspected of being enemies of the state. Stasi agents would sometimes collect the samples on a piece of cloth whilst brushing past a suspect in a crowded place, or by breaking into peoples’ homes and stealing their dirty underwear. More often, they were collected from a special perforated “smell sample chair” in which suspects were seated during interrogation. The Stasi stored the samples they collected in small glass jars, so that, if a released suspect then needed to be found, his or her sample could be given to sniffer dogs. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, thousands of jars containing body odour samples were discovered; many of them are now on display at the Stasi Museum in Berlin.
The U. S. government is also interested in human scent collection and recognition systems. In March, the Technical Support Working Group, a “U.S. national forum that identifies, prioritizes, and coordinates interagency and international research and development (R&D) requirements for combating terrorism [and] rapidly develops technologies and equipment to meet the high priority needs of the combating terrorism community,” invited research proposals from prospective contractors for various technologies. Among the devices that the TSWG hopes to develop are a handheld biological detector, a portable suicide bomber detection system, a fast capture simultaneous flat fingerprint scanner, and “a rugged, reliable and compact system for canine handlers to collect human scent for future use to track a specified target”.
Here are the specifications of the Human Scent Collection System:
• Shall be a polished surface, anodized aluminum housing (Black color) that contains a fan motor, power supply, and electronics;
• Shall be housed in a cylinder that measures no longer than 15 inches in length and 2.5 inches in diameter;
• Must have an independent holder that permits the unit to stand upright on its own; and
• Shall have…[o]ne timed switch that can be externally adjusted, and [o]ne standard on/off switch.
Fan: • Shall have the exhaust diffused around the circumference of the unit housing; shall not be a directional exhaust; • Shall be able to maintain constant rpm within +/- 5 percent throughout the duty cycle of the battery;
• Shall be capable of running at variable speeds; and
• System battery shall be able to sustain a minimum of 30 minutes of continuous operation at the highest fan setting.
• Shall be standard C cell or D cell batteries;
• The system must provide low battery indication; and
• The system shall prevent continued operation as well as shut down if available amperage is below operating level.
- Scent Pad Holder:
• Shall include Teflon-coated surgical pad holders that attach to the end of the unit body;
• Shall provide [o]ne 2 inch by 2 inch surgical pad holder, and [t]wo 4 inch by 4 inch surgical pad holders
• Must be easy to clean; and
• Shall be hinged on one side with a simple latching mechanism for easy insertion of scent collection material.
- Case – two cases are required:
• First, shall be a portable and watertight case that form fits the Scent Transfer Unit (STU), one replacement battery, and one surgical pad holder; and
• Second, shall be a portable and watertight case that form fits the portable STU case, batteries, battery charger, pad holders, and an empty section of the case to hold alcohol swabs, one box of nitrile gloves, disposable forceps, and scent pad material.
• Shall be no more than $2000 for each system.
(via Danger Room)