New breakthrough “COVID alarm” could sniff out disease in crowds

While things are starting to return to normal in some areas following the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies are grappling with exactly how to remain mindful of the virus while relaxing earlier restrictions, without descending into so-called “hygiene theater” — that is, measures that look good but aren’t really that effective. 

For example, all of that surface sanitizing is mostly now for show, with the CDC now saying the risk of surfaces causing COVID-19 transmission is extremely small.

But now, a Cambridgeshire, U.K.-based firm called RoboScientific says its new sensor can identify people infected with COVID-19, in much the same way some dogs are able to sniff out people who have the virus, and can do it in as little as 15 minutes.

According to the Daily Mail, the new sensor may soon be able to keep a watchful eye — or “nose,” as it were — in areas like office buildings or airplanes. If the alarm is tripped, a designated person would receive an alert. 

The sensors could potentially be deployed in handheld breathalyzer-like tests, the researchers say. 

While the tech is in its early stages, research by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and Durham University shows that the COVID-19 sensor is accurate to 98%-100% — about the same as the more invasive nose swab tests.