What’s that smell? Electronic noses vs. Odorous Emissions

Lennart Verhoef News

This article was published on: https://www.standardsplusinnovation.eu/comoninvent

Humans have developed all manner of technology that helps to expand our senses, but for a long time, the sense of smell got the short end of the stick. A pioneering company from Delft, the Netherlands, has changed this. With a little help from their friendly neighborhood standards organization: NEN.


Simon Bootsma is the founder and CEO of Comon Invent: “the company that developed, and is marketing, the electronic nose.”

What is an electronic nose? According to Bootsma, it’s more than meets the eye. “Sure, it’s a small device equipped with sensors that are exposed to ambient air,” he admits, holding up an unassuming white object, roughly the size of a flowerpot. “But what it really is, is a device that mimics the human olfactory system, where the brain interprets whatever signals the nose happens to pick up. Only for the eNose, its brain is a central database in the cloud.”


The device itself simply collects and transmits the sensor data. This means that the devices are low-cost, compact, and easy to transport all over the globe. The real innovation of the eNose, according to Bootsma, is not in the sensors: “The innovation part is not only in the hardware, but it’s more in the whole architecture behind it. The computing power in the cloud is enormous.”

 

Around the world, 1500 eNoses are sniffing the air in ports, oil refineries and other industrial sites. In the Port of Rotterdam alone, 250 eNoses are deployed. The combination of sensors in each nose detects changes in compounds in the air, and they send that information remotely to the cloud, where, like a fingerprint, it is matched against a whole library of chemical profiles. The scent patterns in the database are based on human references: brain associations that tell humans what they are smelling.


Hydrogen sulphide or smell of rotten eggs?

“When you smell hydrogen sulphide, you will probably think of  rotten eggs, and not of some chemical you’ve never even heard of. So when a sewage tank is leaking, and concerned citizens start calling the environmental protection agencies (EPA), complaining about a foul odor of rotten eggs seeping through their windows, that’s how the system learns,” explains Bootsma. “With the eNose, we record all kinds of patterns, and we can label them with patterns that are reported by citizens. We also do a lot of big data analysis of references from human complaints, and references from the eNose recordings.”


Tracking and tracing gas emissions

The eNose is used in situations where gas emissions are likely to pose a risk of odor nuisance to the general public, who may get worried about their health or safety. If there is a gas release that can have an impact on residential areas, electronic noses can be utilized to trace the source of the emission and track the dispersion of the plume.


“In ports, there could be thousands of potential emission sources. And when there is a gas emission, you want to nip it in the bud,” says Bootsma. By placing a network of electronic noses, the actual location of gas releases and where the plume is spreading can be pinpointed. This allows the company responsible to reduce the emission, and simultaneously the EPA to inform the citizens about the cause and the expected bad smell that will pass their neighborhood.”

Innovation

Before Comon Invent started there was no device in the world that could measure odors. The technology and concept were so new that it was not fully understood by companies, nor by authorities.

 

“About twenty years ago, I was working at Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), in a lab that developed sensors and smart sensor technology. We saw sensor technology emerging , and predicted a massive social impact it would have on our life. I decided to leave the university and raised a sensor developing company.  A client approached us with a requirement for a… well, what we now know as the electronic nose. The prototype was to be used on a remote location, so we had to develop something that was simple, low maintenance, self-contained and had communication features. Smartphones did not exist back then. So we were on the verge of what was to become the Internet of Things.”

When the new spin-off company had about five eNose projects running, Bootsma realized that “if we want to make it really revolutionary, a technology that can have a breakthrough, then we need a standard; so everybody understands and knows exactly what to expect from the technology.”


Your friendly neighborhood standards organization

NEN, the Dutch standards organization, is conveniently located only a short walk away from Comon Invent. NEN helped in getting a group of stakeholders together, all of whom saw value in the new technology.

 

“We had a team of about 25 people from all kinds of institutions including RIVM, the Dutch public health authority, and TNO, the applied physics authority in the Netherlands. Together we created a national document carried by all of those people that were part of the standards committee. The NTA, which stands for Netherlands Technical Agreement, is a standard document that allows a faster and more flexible process. It was published under the title Air quality – Electronic air monitoring – Odour (nuisance) and safety,. or NTA 9055 for short.”

Bootsma continues: “It’s not magic, it’s just a set of pages that describe what you can expect from the technology, what the benefits and drawbacks are. But this document made it tremendously easy for us to be accepted by the market.”

 

Creating the NTA 9055 took about a year until it was published in the Netherlands. It then became the starting document for a discussion in a European (CEN) working group and the basis of a European approach between standards organizations and companies from Italy, Germany and England. Bootsma is now part of a community of companies and institutions that are changing the world of odor detection and environment.


Bootsma “Now we have NTA 9055, it is easier for us to communicate with new clients and introduce them to our technology, because we have a written standard and not just a marketing brochure from a private company. It’s a document that is accepted by the stakeholders in the Netherlands. And the next step towards European standardization is working towards acceptance by the European countries.”


He leans back with a satisfied smile. “Our technology is now credible.”

Lennart VerhoefWhat’s that smell? Electronic noses vs. Odorous Emissions

New hire – eNose application specialist – Lindsay Bruijn

Lennart Verhoef News

We are happy to introduce to you Lindsay Bruijnas our newest addition to the team! Since last month, Lindsay is part of our team of consultants and will assist our clients as eNose Application Specialist. With a background in environmental monitoring in heavy industry environments, she is ready give our clients obtain insights in the local air quality situation. By applying all the available data analysis tooling in the Comon Websuite, Lindsay will take on client specific reporting, analysis and training needs.

Good luck and welcome to the team!

Lennart VerhoefNew hire – eNose application specialist – Lindsay Bruijn

Degassing Vessel Detective successfully used by Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management

Lennart Verhoef News

An exploratory study on obtaining better insights on the  impact of degassing vessels on the Dutch waterways has showed to be successful. By combining eNose data with other relevant data inputs, such as AIS data, clear information can be generated for all stakeholders involved with air quality and odor nuisance surrounding the Dutch waterways. 

With the Degassing Vessel Detective tool developed by Comon Invent, detailed insights in ship movements and the impact of possible degasssing can be monitored. Smart AI-based algorithms are used to create valuable information. All available data inputs are intelligently combined to provide the stakeholders with meaning full insights. 

Please read (click here) the letter in which the Minister Van Nieuwenhuizen informs the House of Representatives about the exploratory monitoring action on vessel degassing on Dutch waterways. 

Lennart VerhoefDegassing Vessel Detective successfully used by Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management

Commissioning eNose project Dubai Municipality

Lennart Verhoef News

What a great way to start December 2019! Last week we kicked-off a new project in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Together with our partner Tridel Technologies, Inc. we commissioned a new eNose network for our client Dubai Municipality. After a Websuite, the onlinemonitoring platform, training session the client is now fully equipped to start generating useful insights about changes in the local air quality.

Lennart VerhoefCommissioning eNose project Dubai Municipality

RTLZ How It’s Done

Lennart Verhoef News

Check out our company appearance on the Dutch RTLZ TV show How It’s Done. This gives you a short introduction to the air quality monitoring solution we provide to our customers worldwide. Many of our customers are active in the oil & gas industry. Oil movement can always cause accidental emissions and odour disturbance. Want to be on top of your operations and proactively manage your emissions with limited external effects? Contact us via info@comon-invent and we will be in touch with you shortly.

Lennart VerhoefRTLZ How It’s Done

eNose seminar Ghent, Belgium

Lennart Verhoef News

During the past 10 years, VITO (Belgium Research Institute) and Comon Invent have jointly carried out research into the use of electronic noses (eNoses) for monitoring, among other things, odor and safety-relevant substances in port areas. 

Last week, during an afternoon seminar in Ghent, Belgium, informative sessions on the operation and applications possibilities of the eNose was organized by VITO and Comon Invent. In these sessions several topics were discussed: practical cases such as eNose monitoring at TATA STEEL Europe and Metallo Belgium, fields of application, project governance structures and the technology behind air quality monitoring with eNoses.

 

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Lennart VerhoefeNose seminar Ghent, Belgium

eNoses for a better air quality in the port

Lennart Verhoef News

E-nose Port of Rotterdam. Foto: Marc Nolte
e-nose-port-of-rotterdam-photo-marc-nolte

Together with all the stakeholders in the We-nose project of the Port of Rotterdam we are continuously working on new developments to improve air quality monitoring in the port of Rotterdam area. 

Please read the translated article (original was published by the Port of Rotterdam – dutch only) about the current project developments below. 

Original article published by:  Port of Rotterdam Authority
Publishing date: 24-09-2019
Article link
Noses for better air quality in the port

The port of Rotterdam is the largest in Europe, but the ambition is not the size of the port: we want to be the smartest port in the world. And this means innovating in all possible areas. This also applies to air quality and safety. Currently, around 20 companies in the port are working together with the DCMR Environmental Protection Agency Rijnmond and the Port of Rotterdam Authority to detect sudden changes in the air of the port of Rotterdam through the we-nose network. This means that action can be taken quickly and in a targeted manner if necessary.

We-nose
In recent years, the Port of Rotterdam Authority has installed more than 250 electronic noses – e-noses – in the port. The e-noses monitor the composition of the air via sensors that detect changes. They then send this information wirelessly to a central monitoring server. This central network is a service offered by the Port Authority that companies and government departments can use. The pivot of special cooperation is that all parties have access to the information of the system. The information from the e-noses is simultaneously shown live on screens in the control room of the DCMR and in the control rooms of companies. Hence the name of this network: we-nose.

In case of emergency
The purpose of the network is twofold: companies can recognize and remedy unwanted emissions at an early stage on a daily basis, preventing odor nuisance, for example. In the event of an emergency where hazardous substances are released, the network can also be used to support security services. In addition to the 250 we noses, a number of companies have installed their own noses on their site. These company noses are often adjusted even more precisely so that the companies have a continuous view of the air composition on their own site. The information of the company noses is in fact visible on a screen in their control room. In an emergency, they can share the data of their company noses with the authorities. “The men and women of the fire brigade, police and other security services are committed every day to protect us in the event of disasters in the port,” says Janhein van den Eijnden, managing director of Vopak Rotterdam and one of the participating companies. “I would like to contribute to supporting them wherever possible. In addition, we naturally want to know immediately if there is a change in air quality in our working environment ”. 

 

A good neighbor

Working with hazardous substances is a daily routine for Vopak. The company specializes in the storage and handling of liquid chemicals and gas and oil products. Van den Eijnden: “Many people work and live on top of each other in the port area and surroundings. This makes safety and environmental management extra important, but also a major challenge. We must tackle this challenge together. We always try to innovate: innovations such as e-noses are naturally part of that. ”At Vopak they use two different types of digital systems. The first is a real-time overview and the e-noses provide the input for this. The second is an intelligent system that makes predictions based on the weather and planned work. Based on the information they receive from this, they can make operational decisions.

Vopak was the early-adopter with the use of e-noses in our port area. “With the e-nose, you quickly notice any odor spread and you can prevent potential nuisance, and therefore potential complaints. You want that as a company, don’t you, “says van den Eijnden.

Smart together
A number of times a year the parties sit down together; the participating companies, the DCMR, Rotterdam-Rijnmond Safety Region, Port of Rotterdam Authority and Comon Invent, the network manager. During these discussions the user experiences and the future vision are discussed. Everyone can indicate here how the network and collaboration are experienced and how they see the future of the we-nose network. Simon Bootsma, director of Comon Invent, announced the latest developments at the last meeting. Comon Invent, the DCMR and companies are currently testing the possibility of automatic source recognition. The intention is that in the future the system itself can “think”, recognize situations and propose targeted actions.

Simon said: “The system learns while it is being used. Every case makes the system a little smarter. For example, it can quickly recognize the patterns of degassing ships and the appropriate parties can be quickly informed of the situation via the control room of the DCMR. ”With this special collaboration, all parties are working on a smart and safe port.

Lennart VerhoefeNoses for a better air quality in the port

Annual report eNose network ODNZKG – Port of Amsterdam

Lennart Verhoef News

source: port of amsterdam

Odour nuisance is one of the largest sources of nuisance in North Holland. That is why the province of North-Holland (PNH), together with the Port of Amsterdam (HbA), installed eNoses in the Amsterdam port area and along the North Sea Canal in 2015. The aim is to increase the quality of life in the Port area and surroundings with regards to odour. In 2018, the province expanded the eNoses network with 40 eNoses along the North Sea and Amsterdam-Rhine canal. This is to be able to monitor the provincial environmental ban with regard to floating degassing of ships. The eNose network now consists of 84 eNoses. The monitoring is carried out by the North Sea Canal Area Environment Agency (ODNZKG). The annual report eNose network North Sea Canal Area and Amsterdam-Rhine Canal 2018 contains the conclusions about odour monitoring with the eNoses.

The annual report can be accessed through this link (Dutch only). 

Article published by: Omgevingsdienst Noordzeekanaalgebied
Publishing date: 02-05-2019
Article link

 

Lennart VerhoefAnnual report eNose network ODNZKG – Port of Amsterdam

Kick-off online eNose monitoring network Fujairah Municipality

Lennart Verhoef News

We are glad to announce our contribution to sustainable port development in Fujairah, the United Arab Emirates.

Last October 2018, the contract for the realization of an online eNose monitoring network to cover the whole Oil Industrial Zone of the Port of Fujairah was signed by the Fujairah Municipality’s Director-General H.E. Eng. Mohamed Saif al Afkham and Comon Invent’s CEO Simon Bootsma.

Six months later on March 27, the H.E. Mohamed Saif Al Afkham and the Mayor of the city of Rotterdam H.E. Ahmed Aboutaleb inaugurated the control room of the Health Department of the Fujairah Municipality where the eNose information is displayed real-time on a video wall to enhance air quality awareness.

With 86 eNose locations, the network will cover the complete industrial area and some adjacent residential areas.

Lennart VerhoefKick-off online eNose monitoring network Fujairah Municipality

Magazine Europoort Kringen featuring Comon Invent

Lennart Verhoef News

In the September 2018 edition of the magazine Europoort Kringen Comon Invent is covered. Simon Bootsma elaborates on how the company found its existence and how it has grown to become a market leader in online air quality monitoring today.

Source: EuropoortKringen_September2018

With a focus on air quality monitoring in an around oil movement operations, Comon Invent has proven to bring additional value in terms of creating awareness in odour nuisance and safety related situations. With over 90 projects in 20 countries worldwide, Comon Invent’s approach to air quality monitoring has landed and is now successfully being applied by oil terminals, refineries, port authorities and environmental protection agencies.

Read the full article (Dutch only) here
source: Europoort Kringen, September 2018

Lennart VerhoefMagazine Europoort Kringen featuring Comon Invent