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Nigerian neuroscientist builds computer that can smell explosives

30 August 2017

At the TED Global conference in Tanzania, Nigerian neuroscientist Oshiorenoya Agabi, founder of tech startup Koniku, unveiled a computer that is not based on silicon but mice neurons.

According to the 38-year old, his flagship product called ''Koniku Kore'' has been trained to recognise the smell of explosives and could be used to replace traditional airport security.

BBC News reported that all the big tech firms from Google to Microsoft, are looking at ways to create artificial intelligence modelled on the human brain while Agabi is attempting to reverse-engineer biology, which already accomplishes this function.

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

Agabi explained an interview with CNN, how it is possible to detect diseases using the device.

''One of the problems that plague us right now is security, explosives have particles and smells coming off the individual and with our device you can tell, without requiring line of sight or contact, you can scan them at the time at a place of your own choosing and you can get into an aircraft and go about your business.''

Agabi grew up Surulere, Lagos, Nigeria, obtained a Bachelors degree in Physics from the University of Lagos and went to Sweden and Switzerland to further his studies in physics and neuroscience.

Launching his start-up Koniku over a year ago, he raised $1 million in funding and claims it is already making profits of $10 million in deals with the security industry.

The company is currently developing two related technologies - the odour positioning system and the odour surveillance system, which will replicate sensitivity and specificity levels only seen in biological systems, according to a report by

''Imagine being able to detect odours a significant distance away with form factors which you can mount on a commercially available drone. The system will be complete with on board biological learning and classification,'' wrote Agabi on his LinkedIn profile.

Agabi's start up has developed a prototype 64-neuron silicon chip, which will be used in a drone that can smell explosives.

The drone would be able to smell bombs several kilometers away, and can also be used for surveying farmland, refineries, manufacturing plants - anything where health and safety can be measured by an acute sense of smell.

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