For law enforcement, sniffing out explosives and dangerous chemicals requires either a trained dog or some big, heavy equipment. Wearable technology, however, can provide a much simpler solution, like this smart ring developed by researchers at University of California San Diego.
The ring has a sensor on the top that can detect specific chemical compounds. It can detect a lot of different threats, but the prototype unit is only tuned to explosives and phosphate nerve agents (in both liquid and gas forms). Below the sensor is a bunch of circuitry that can process the data and then send it over to a smartphone or laptop for viewing.
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So why turn a ring into a threat device? The team was interested by wearables, especially ring wearables, and noticed that devices are mostly focused on health. Then they looked at the world and saw increasing terrorist threats and political instability and decided they should maybe go a different direction.
The researchers say the wearable is part of a larger Lab-on-Ring platform that could be expanded to detect other kinds of hazardous chemicals and compounds. They also say their tests have resulted in "minimal false alarms", which makes the ring both effective and convenient at the same time.
There are a couple of engineering challenges the team is working through before this can be a real product that law enforcement - or anyone else - could use. The first is that the sensors can only sense things for a short amount of time because the stability of some of the compounds for the sensor isn't the best right now. Second, it can't detect multiple threats at once. That limits its usefulness out in the field, where you need to keep on watch for anything.
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