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Innovation Nigerian scientist invents device that can detect explosives by smell

Oshi Agabi imagines airports that will need no visible security system, allowing people to just walk on into planes.

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Oshi Agabi is re-imagining the future with biotech play

Oshi Agabi is re-imagining the future.


A Nigerian by name Oshi Agabi has introduced a computer based invention named Koniku Kore.

The technology is based on mice neurons was exhibited at the TEDGlobal conference in Tanzania.

The device has been trained to recognise the smell of explosives and could change the way airport security checks are traditionally done.

The inventor is betting on the modem-sized device to provide the brain for future robots.

All of the big tech firms, from Google to Microsoft, are rushing to create artificial intelligence modelled on the human brain.

play Oshi Agabi envisages airports that will need no visible security system allowing people to just walk on to planes (Stephanie Busari/CNN)


Mr Agabi is attempting to reverse-engineer biology, which already accomplishes this function with a fraction of the power it would take a silicon-based processor.

"Biology is technology. Bio is tech," he says. "Our deep learning networks are all copying the brain."

Agabi launched his start-up Koniku over a year ago, and has raised $1m (£800,000) in funding and claims it is already making profits of $10m in deals with the security industry.

Oshiorenoya Agabi wants to create a brain-based computer system play

Oshiorenoya Agabi wants to create a brain-based computer system

(Getty Images)


Koniku Kore is a combination of living neurons and silicon, with olfactory capabilities — basically sensors that can detect and recognise smells.

"You can give the neurons instructions about what to do - in our case we tell it to provide a receptor that can detect explosives." Agabi said.

The Nigerian foresees a future where such devices can be discreetly used at various points in airports, eliminating the need for queues to get through airport security.

As well as being used for bomb detection, the device can also be used to detect illness by sensing markers of a disease in the air molecules that a patient gives off.

play Certain dogs are said to be able to sniff cancer cells in patients (CNN)


Like certain dogs can sniff out illnesses, Agabi explains that 'Koniku' a Yoruba word for 'Immortal' can recreate similar feat.

"In the same way that a dog is able to detect if someone has prostate cancer, the real question we ask is 'how does a dog do it?' We can clone that process on our chip, so yes in the same way that a dog can detect diseases or explosives at an airport, it's a sensory system, that is essentially what we recreate in our chip," Agabi says.

Advances in neuroscience, bioengineering and computer science means that much more is known about how the human brain works than ever before.

This is fuelling the development of neuro-technology - devices that aim to mould the brain into computers.

Much of the current work is aimed at improving brain function, particularly for those with brain-related injuries or diseases.

Speaking on using it as a means to fight terrorism, Agabi sees no reason why he can’t use the resources in hand to combat terror while going about it ethically.

"I think it's unethical not to deploy any resources we have to fight terrorism. It is the urgent problem that we face as a species.""That's not to say that we shouldn't be careful of bio-integrity," he adds.

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