Intimate Technology

Preventing Data Leaks with Smell

The human olfactory system is capable of detecting one trillion different scents. The ability to smell not only lets us enjoy the fragrances of roses and perfume, it also warns us when something is not right. Take gas for instance, the addition of an artificial scent to the odorless matter allows our noses to function as a cautionary tool in case of a leak. The project Smell of Data has adopted this approach and altered it into a device that warns us against the unscented danger of our digital landscape: data.

After the data leaks of 2013, we became much more aware of our personal data. Keeping in mind that every two days we produce as much information as we did in the whole year 2003, this data is being tracked, recorded and analyzed. We all hear about it, but we never know when this happens. Our personal data are under attack.

Two artists created a device that communicates data leaks by means of smell

With their latest project Smell of Data, designer Leanne Wijnsma and filmmaker Froukje Tan are contributing to data protection. The device alerts Internet users in any case of data leakage and communicates digital hazards releasing a scent when personal data are at risk. It works as follows:

  1. Charge the Scent dispenser with the Smell of Data.
  2. Connect your smartphone, tablet or computer to the Scent dispenser via Wi-Fi.
  3. The Smell of Data recognizes when you visit an unprotected website on an unsecured Wi-Fi network or Hotspot.
  4. The Scent dispenser will release a puff of the Smell of data as a warning signal.
  5. Prevent your data from leaking; use the tips to protect you and your data.

The use of smell is a good example of a powerful sense that is hardly articulated in our technological culture. The Smell of Data aims for a safer Internet, by making the web more instinctive, users are more in control over their own online behavior. Welcome to the post-Snowden era.

Two artists created a device that communicates data leaks by means of smell

Earlier this year, our NNN fellows gathered to explore the uncharted territory of a new project: Next Senses. Asking ourselves, how do we want to perceive the world, as the world we live in has drastically changed over the ages. Isn’t it time to reevaluate the way we access to the outer world?

The Smell of Data was developed in partnership with Next Nature Network.

Photography by Simone C. Niquille