Money-Sniffing Device Helps Stop Drug Cartels

A Homeland Security-funded device will sniff out large wads of cash on travelers.
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A Homeland Security-funded device will sniff out large wads of cash on travelers.
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Sniffing out drug money could be the answer to stopping drug cartels. Silicon Valley engineers are being funded by the Department of Homeland Security to develop a device that could actually sniff out large wads of cash. 

According to Fast Company, the device could look like a briefcase or a wand, which would be passed over someone's luggage. Sensors would then be able to pick up even the faintest of traces of certain gases. 

“[The smell] comes from all of the materials it’s made of--all the linens and the inks and the chemicals--and the residue emanates from the surface of the dollar for some years,” said Joseph Stetter, president of KWJ Engineering. “We started this project not knowing very much at the beginning and said, ‘Okay, what is the smell of money? And what technologies are available to make sniffers?’”

Traditionally, police dogs are used to sniff out drugs and large amounts of money to put a stop to the flow in and out of the US. However, communicating with animals can be difficult and the technology Stetter and KWJ is working on can be used around the clock.

“The problem with dogs is that they’re expensive and you have to feed them, even though they can be really cute,” Stetter said. “So if you had an instrument that could mimic the dog’s nose, this could work at border control points to sniff out money.”

The company won't divulge what chemical they are trying to detect, but they did mention that their biggest road block is developing a machine that can sniff through the other contaminants on dollar bills. Most have traces of recreational drugs, fingerprints, food and grease, which can throw the machine into disarray. It also has to be programmed so that it doesn't stop travelers with reasonable amounts of cash on them.

“You don’t want to stop Grandma with 50 bucks in her wallet at the border,” Stetter said.

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