The oPhone explained

How real is the possibility to send smells from your smartphone in 2016?

Scent and memory are tied together. Smell possesses the ability to immediately transport us back to a certain time and place. It can remind us of long-forgotten experiences, like that time aunt Gretel almost burnt the house, or that time on a cold winter’s night uncle Bob gave you his jacket, which reeked of Old Spice mingled into the lurid fumes of sweaty armpits. Boom! Get a whiff of a strong scent similar to one you experienced in your childhood and your memory will remove you from the present and take you to some long-lost past.

With that in mind, for businesses whose product or service is closely associated to a certain scent—for instance, a bakery or a perfume label, the ability to communicate smell through marketing platforms like social media would be an invaluable asset. Pictures with words with sounds—garnished with a spray of uncle Bob’s underarm stench (perhaps not) are a sure fire way to carve out a long-lasting impression in your customers’ minds.

And it looks like the reality of smell-o-calls is coming to life thanks to the oPhone.

Send Smells From Your Smartphone, With The oPhone

Developed by a Harvard engineering Professor, David Edwards, and a team of his students, the oPhone is a piece of technology that can send and receive scents and images. At this stage, by mixing only 32 base scents, it can create up to 365 unique aromas. This figure is set to rise as the technology advances.

Edwards says that "Biologically we respond powerfully to aroma, so if we become familiar with the design of aromatic communication we might be able to say things we couldn’t before".

One of the issues that smell transmission technology faces, as Edwards explains, is that ‘Odor transmission to date is not smart… If I give you the odor of a pizza, I have a difficult time immediately after giving you the odor of the sea and then giving you the odor of a cactus.’ Which means, as we all would already know, going from one scent after another is no easy task.

It’s why fragrance sellers will shove a cup of coffee beans in your face each time you sniff a certain perfume. Trying to differentiate between Chanel No. 5 and Tommy Blue by smelling one and then immediately after the other would be an impossible task because smells linger and mingle into each other. Overcoming this hurdle when multiple odors are involved and when the context in which the odors are smelled is always different—not so simple a task.

Want to find out more about the technical side of the oPhone? Click here

A Big Win For Businesses?

Nevertheless, the main idea behind the oPhone is to make a piece of technology that can trigger the emotional connections scent is so adept at connecting.

As different sorts of scents become communicable through oPhone technology, the greater the incentive for businesses whose product or service relies on scent to start thinking about ways they could overcome the present hurdles and begin putting plans to use this tech into action. Because for businesses like florists, bakeries, candy shops, fruit suppliers, fragrance labels, and many more, the benefits of scent transmission are huge.

For the developers themselves, the issue remains application and accessibility. The big next step is finding a way to seamlessly amalgamate scent transmission into the already existing mobile platform. As it stands, the oPhone is big, clunky, and impractical, but as it evolves and adapts, it’ll be interesting to see how fast it spreads its smelly wings.