PMUC supports research funding to expand business for Thai startups, pushing the innovation of “Electronic Nose” to compete in foreign markets.
Program Management Unit for Competitiveness (PMUC) has provided research funding for the project to “Accelerate the market growth of electronic nose technology in the food industry”. The smell analysis tool developed for the food and drink industry works by replicating the sense of smell of the olfactory and neurological functions in human, using gas sensors to send signals to the artificial intelligence control circuit that transforms the scent data into digital data. The data can then be displayed in the form of a report to be able to analyze properties of the scent. The electronic nose device has been continuously developed by a team of Thai researchers from Mahidol University. It is a portable electronic device that is convenient to use and cheaper than imported devices. There are also services for rent-purchase membership that responds to the need of the food industry in Thailand, especially SME companies, to provide access to “Smell analysis” services at an affordable price.
Prof. Teerakiat Kerdcharoen, Ph.D., Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, the project leader, said that a team of researchers from the Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, jointly founded MUI Robotics Co., Ltd., a technology startup company, which has expertise in odor recognition technology for at least 20 years, pushing IoT sensor research and AI systems for commercial use. Initially, Dr. Teerakiat was inspired by two scientists who won the 2004 Nobel Prize in Medicine: Richard Axel and Linda B. Buck, who discovered the process of “perceiving, classifying and recognizing smells” by the human olfactory function, with genes that are expressed in the form of olfactory receptor proteins making us remember a lot of various scents. The Thai-made electronic device uses the working principle of many gas sensors that work together by detecting smells mimicking the human nose, collecting and converting electrical signals from sensors. These are digital signals to be processed in order to classify odor patterns with software to distinguish and classify odors that can be displayed in graph form for analysis.
Dr. Teerakiat continued that the electronic nose technology was born and has been developed for a long time. People generally understand that it is a sensor to measure substances, which is not new, but the highlight of this electronic device is that it has the ability to turn odor data into a valuable and highly usable digital database, such as a digital scent database (Digitalization of smell) designed as an indicator of the surrounding elements. Possible applications include odor analysis for diabetes, cancer diagnosis, odor and taste design for developing new food flavors or digital odors in the metaverse world, which are currently being developed.
Ms. Wandee Wattanakit, CEO of MUI Robotics Co., Ltd. said that smelling and analyzing odor classification is very necessary in the food industry. In the past, at least 5 workers had to be used to test the smell and find the average for the analysis of smells in industrial factories, which was the inherent cost of production. And the average value may be inaccurate, and especially after the COVID crisis, the loss of taste and smelling senses in COVID patients made it all the more critical to confirm the accuracy of human sense of smell. Therefore, it is an opportunity for the companies to enter the market, since in the past 2 years due to the limitation of electronic nose technology in foreign countries, with higher prices and most of the devices and drivers are manufactured in foreign countries. Additionally, there is a machine maintenance cost that requires specialists to adjust the operation in accordance with the product to be tested, making it inaccessible to domestic SMEs. Companies like MUI Robotics can therefore become an option to help Thai SMEs develop products, with competitive quality. As well, the company has developed a rent-purchase scheme, which has been well received by large entrepreneurs and SMEs, especially the latest portable electronic device, which can measure the smell factor of objects, both solid, liquid and gas by connecting the sample odor circulation system on the detector for accurate analytical results. The electronic nose device, MUI-Nose, can serve the food and beverage industry, such as services for raw material smell analysis, quality control, and research and development for frozen seafood, frozen meat, rice and plant products, canned food, vegetable oil, soft drinks, etc. Examples of smell analysis in the production process of the food industry, include measuring the smell of mud in fish, testing for authentic jasmine rice smell in coffee roasting, inspecting the smell of tea leaves from the real production source, and detection of adulterated odors and formaldehyde, etc. Currently, MUI Robotics is selling electronic nose devices to countries in the ASEAN and Europe, as well as requesting relevant standards certification to prepare for expansion into the European market and eventually the global market.
For more details and information related to the research, please visit: https://mui-robotics.asia