Friday 23 August 2019

Billy Keane: 'The winds of change are blowing, and something in the air tells me I'm onto a winner with this device'


The Kunkun - Japanese for
The Kunkun - Japanese for "sniff, sniff" - looks like a digital tape recorder and connects to a smartphone app
Billy Keane

Billy Keane

The Sniff Sniff smells people. Sniff Sniff is the English translation for the new Japanese invention known as Kunkun.

The Kunkun will change the way we will live forever. The smelly and the stinking had better watch out. Kunkun knows when you're about. Kunkun is a portable BO detector, no bigger than a smartphone.

When one of the customers in our bar broke evil-smelling wind, invariably there were steadfast denials. Mom had a theory the first to complain was always the guilty one. Mom used to say "every cat smells his own mallaci".

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I just took a guess at the spelling of mallaci. There is no sign of it in the dictionary and the only reference I could find was a family name of Italian origin. I'm sure it will come as a great shock to the family when they discover their name is the Knocknagoshel word used for foul odours.

Back we will go to Kunkun and how it was I came across this wonderful invention.

I am, with any luck, bound for Japan and the Rugby World Cup in late September. A special thanks to all those in the organising committee who made sure the Rugby World Cup didn't clash with the Listowel Races.

So as usual I immersed myself in the culture of Japan.

There's this Japanese channel I watch called NHK World and the station is full of news from Japan.

And it was there on NHK that I discovered the Kunkun. The invention is owned by the Konica Minolta Corporation - a big, huge company that used to do cameras but now has taken up photographing the invisible. Dr Shigeru Omatsu, from the faculty of robotics and design engineering at the Osaka Institute of Technology, is the head of the design team. I will translate from the Japanese for you. "For body odour, it's isovaleric acid and ammonia, to which the sensors are particularly sensitive."

Kunkun Body measures smells on the head, under the oxter, under the feet and, wait for it, behind the ears.

The Japanese are spotlessly clean. Cleanliness is seen as a mark of respect for yourself and for others. Behind the ear was an area of the body I never thought of as a place for the harbouring and secretion of BO. I'll bet there are lads reading this here this morning who will never nibble their sweethearts' ears ever again. I suppose that's where the expression "don't forget to wash behind the ears" came out of.

There are other far-reaching implications.

Konica Minolta says "we have had inquiries from companies looking to improve employee etiquette". The device has been sold to taxi companies and hotels. Soon enough the employees will smell as nice as the entrance to a department store where the perfume is sold. It could come to pass that the Kunkun will be used to ensure there will be an end to body odours in service industries.

Kunkun might make for a more pleasant working environment. There's nothing worse than working in close proximity to a smelly person. The Japanese call it "smell harassment". I smell imminent litigation.

The Kunkun will be used like airport body sweepers and I am sure there are all kinds of issues to be sorted out between employers and employees. All you have to do is keep the device near the target area for 30 seconds, so it can be done sneakily.

There was a man I worked with one time and he had very bad BO. He was a nice poor oul lad and he was a sensitive soul. The problem was he thought it was everyone else who smelled, and not him. One day in the canteen the BO man said "there's a desperate pong in here".

To which a lady who was a straight talker replied "maybe it's how you are sitting too close to yourself".

According to Konika Minolta, "the device measures the smell of mouth (bad breath), aging odour, middle oily odour, sweat odour". The Japanese TV programme says middle-aged odour is "a sort of old grease smell emitted by men in their thirties to their fifties".

The Kunkun retails at about €250. You need to install the app on a smartphone and the read will give the scent rating out of 100.

Smart and all as the Japanese are, there is one area the Kunkun does not measure and when I visit Japan in the autumn I am going to take up the gap in the mobile smell inspectorate. There will be a high-level meeting with Dr Omatsu, the Osaka Institute of Technology and Konica Minolta. The first line of my pitch will be: "I'm going to make us all rich."

The Kunkun Sniff Sniff does not measure breaking wind. No blame to the Japanese. I'm certain the Japanese hardly ever down a gallon of porter and bed in the drink with a burger stacked high enough to require planning permission.

The yen will flow in. The environmentalist extremists will advocate the uses of Kunkun to eradicate the methane discharges from the aperture located in the posterior area just below the base of the spine. Fines will eventually be levied, not just on cows but on humans as well.

I will tell Dr Omatsu and the big wheels in Konica Minolta that our device will conclusively end the most common and often the most divisive of pub arguments. Since the smoking ban came in, Irish pub smells that were hitherto unnoticed were now smelled at their very worst. When someone "lets go" in a pub the blame game starts.

There are steadfast denials and others who may well be innocent are blamed in the wrong when the expulsion of noxious gases takes place in a confined space full of people.

The device will end the arguments once and for all. There is a type of sneaky flatulence which is known in the licensed trade as SBD. This is the worst type of behaviour imaginable. SBD stands for 'Silent But Deadly'.

Soon enough the culprits can be identified by the Keane Kunkun and the foul odours are certain to hit the very high nineties or even as high up as the maximum smell detection rating of 100. The publicans can call out the ton score with the loud dramatic tones of the darts commentators when they scream "One hundred and eighteeeeeee" at the World Championships.

No longer will the SBD's be able to claim "it wasn't me, it was him". The dastardly will be ruthlessly targeted and mercilessly outed.

Irish Independent

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