How an emerging radiation technology could help brands identify consumers in future

We catch up one of the latest emerging technologies, terahertz radiation, and its future application in recognising individuals


Marketers have longed dreamed of being able to identify every one of their customers, regardless of how they are interacting.

It is a capability that digital technology has delivered in the online world, but as yet no method has proven effective for the vast majority of offline interactions. Facial and mobile device recognition have both yet to become sufficiently accurate to deliver a positive ID against a known identity in all situations.

But what if you could recognise a person by their own unique chemical signature?

It’s not a crazy as it sounds.

The emerging science of terahertz radiation spectroscopy is enabling researchers to perform a widening range of scanning and recognition activities. And possibly – at some point in the distant future – it might enable the identification of individuals.

Data61 researcher, Ken Smart, has been investigating the uses of terahertz radiation for 15 years as a scanning and detection technology.

“It has the ability to penetrate opaque materials, such as packaging and things like that,” Smart says. “You can look for voids inside of materials, or you can look for corrosion under paint. And it has a high sensitivity to liquids, so you can tell the water content of the thing you are looking at.”

All of that makes terahertz scanners particularly adept at instantly detecting substances like pesticide on fruit. Smart says this is of huge value to the agricultural sector, where some traditional chemical tests might take up to 24 hours to deliver a result – an appalling delay for anyone wanting to sell perishable goods.

“If you can determine how much is there within minutes, you have an advantage,” Smart says.

The technology could also be used to detect counterfeit food, such as when expensive fish are substituted with cheaper ones in restaurants. It has also been used to scan beneath works of art to determine what might have been painted over, by identifying the individual pigments.

The terahertz radiation band sits between the millimetre radiation band, often used for full body scanners at airports, and the optical radiation band used by human eyes. It is a non-ionising form of radiation, meaning it is safer than some other scanning techniques, such as those that use x-rays.

That terahertz radiation is only now being considered for commercial applications is due to recent breakthroughs which have made it easier to create devices with the power profile needed to work with it.

“It’s easier now to make high power devices, so you get stronger penetration and it is easier to see different things,” Smart says. “As you go up in frequency the wavelength gets smaller so your resolution increases, and you can see finer detail that you can’t capture at lower frequencies.

“You get to see an almost-unique signature. The more refined a substance is, the more unique its signature is. But once you start combining substances it gets a little murkier to tease out which one is which.”

Smart says the power profile of terahertz scanners also make standoff testing difficult, with an effective range of ten metres.

“So when it gets beyond that you have atmospheric effects and all sorts of things working against you,” Smart says. “But as people work their way around some of these problems there can be solutions found.”

And while it can scan through cloth and paper, it can’t penetrate metallic objects.

Despite the possibilities, however, the murkiness and range issue mean it may be some time before shop owners are identifying visitors by their unique chemical signature.

“That’s in the future, quite a long way,” Smart says.

Follow CMO on Twitter: @CMOAustralia, take part in the CMO conversation on LinkedIn: CMO ANZ, join us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CMOAustralia, or check us out on Google+: google.com/+CmoAu

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Show Comments

Blog Posts

Cannes 2018: The Big Not Easy

This year’s Cannes Lions program is packed full of data, robots, algorithms, voice technology, blockchain, virtual reality, artificial intelligence and machine creativity. But I’m just as interested in more subtle trends and insights.

Richard Brett

CEO, opr

CMOs are talking the CX talk, but not yet walking the walk

Customer experience is eclipsing product as a competitive differentiator. CMOs are recognising this shift and talking the talk. But are they also walking the walk?

Will our manners go the same way as texting when robotic servants take over?

Much of the talk in the industry is focused on the limited amount of time that screens have left in our lives.

Katja Forbes

Founder and chief, sfyte

My father had ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) for 3 years His first symptoms were weakness in his hands and losing his balance which ...

Janice Tollis

Why Gartner thinks brands are too uptight about strategy

Read more

The things who have mentioned are very convincing and will certainly work.

Lunna Walker

Xero evolves to fit a changing marketplace

Read more

The use of the virtual reality and the additional reality in marketing are only the first steps to the unlimited possibilities. When you ...

Viri VR

Treasury Wine Estates ramps up consumer engagement with augmented reality app portfolio

Read more

Personally, I know about using virtual reality in VR games or when watching movies. I live in Melbourne and often visit a club - https://...

Rafe Frost

3 brand new virtual reality experiences in action

Read more

Infographics are quick and easy to understand! Pictures indeed speak better than words. SEO in Mumbai

Tanushree

Image intelligence:10 must-see infographics for marketers

Read more

Latest Podcast

More podcasts

Sign in