Spectral Engines, a growth company that originated at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, is about to launch a portable drug screening device police patrols can use for rapid and cost-efficient on-site screening of suspected drugs. The pocket-size scanner reports the results in the user's mobile phone in a matter of seconds. There is also international demand for such an innovation, and therefore a total of EUR 2.4 million in EU funding was granted for the device's productization.
The newly developed small device, weighing only a few hundred grams, will change the future of police work in war on drugs. Besides being the first pocket-size drug screening device available for field work, the device is also more than 20 times cheaper than any other devices in current use.
"Our drug screening device is significantly smaller than the competing ones currently on the market. The device is designed for field work and it uses the mobile phone as its user interface. Devices are cloud-connected which enables easy machine learning-based application algorithm development for different drugs," says the company's CCO Janne Suhonen.
The Spectral Engines scanner allows an accurate and reliable identification of such drugs as cocaine, heroin, and amphetamine from very low drug concentrations. As needed, the multi-purpose device's identification algorithms can be updated to identify various designer drugs as well.
In addition to police use, the scanner is also suited for the use of the customs, the military and other similar organizations, where it may be important to identify foreign substances.
The technology of the device created in the NarcoScan project is based on infrared spectroscopy and the MEMS technology studied at VTT.
First products to enter market next spring
The competitive funding from the EU Horizon 2020 programme won by Spectral Engines enables rapid and cost-efficient productization of the drug screening device.
"The EU funding guarantees that we can proceed rapidly from the first prototype to mass production, and allows us to assign several man-years of labor on this productization project. We will be able to launch the first products next spring, and early next year we will also begin field testing with the first pilot customers", Suhonen says.
The company has already collaborated with the leading criminal laboratories, and its research partners come mainly from the United States and Europe. The EU funding enables expanding the cooperation to various new laboratories for the development of model libraries.
The granted funding provides also a solid foundation for rapid growth of Spectral Engines. With the help of the funding, the company will also be able to develop portable sensor technology and cloud computing solutions for other applications. VTT Ventures Oy is one of the funding bodies of Spectral Engines.