The Power of Smell

Experience Design | Research | Product Development | Design

The sense of smell is more connected to emotion than any other sense. Smell is the first sense to develop in human beings. It is fully developed even before we are born.

The Opportunity

Technology is growing at an uncontrollable rate. Beyond the growth of technology, people are expecting accessibility to technology to increase more and more every year. One of the largest social technology movements in recent years has been the hashtag. It has allowed users to “meta-tag” their social media pictures and posts.

The hashtag not only allows searching it also extends reach through trending and future tagging. It is thought that in just one day #Love and #Syria could reach 360 million people and 240 million, respectively. With this type of reach, hashtags are increasing becoming a way of selling advertising. For example celebrities are paid for using hashtags in their social media posts as brand promotions. At the root, marketing attempts to connect consumers with a product or service through an emotional connection. What better way to create a connection than through a direct recommendation and/or use of a product by a recognizable and trusted source.

Beyond advertising, a recent study showed that over 50% of social media posts include a hashtag. In a recent study hashtags were mainly used as a form of self expression. Current studies are exploring how algorithms could create an automatic emotional identification using hashtags. Because there is not one source that captures hashtag usage across media platforms these studies have been confined to source data from individual platforms. To truly leverage this vast amount of data a single platform is essential. When senses are lacking in communication; engagement, desire and effectiveness is reduced. Today’s technology engages sight and sound as a means of communication, but there is a human desire to engage more senses to provide deeper emotional connections.


The ability to share the experience of smell with technology through your smart phone. To digitally harness the sense of smell a new mechanism and library must be introduced. The AMP& tag is an open source tagging system for smell, it builds on the Open&ense library framework which stores and aggregates smell tags.
This framework allows any user to access a smell tag that has been captured and re-share it through social media, a business’ website or personal engagement. Open&ense has created a coding
language to convert scent molecules into a digital language that can be leveraged on existing
and future technologies.

Defining technology trends

The rise of Twitter is embodied by the number of tweets daily. There are 58M tweets per day. More than 43% of users tweet with a cell phone. It is not just individuals tweeting, tweets are also a way for businesses to connect with consumers. Twitter generated $259M from advertising in 2012.

The speed of technology adoption has risen exponentially over time. Currently 97% of Adults between the ages of 18-29 years old have a cell phone. Looking at future generations of users, adoption is happening younger and younger with the average age of the first personal cell phone at just 13 years old. Technology is increasingly perceived to be a ‘basic human right’ and it shows. It is projected that there will be 7.3B cell phone accounts in 2014 which exceeds the number of people on this planet according to the International Telecommunications Union.

The cell phone has become so ubiquitous that it is increasingly considered an essential everyday product. Sixty eight percent of people worldwide sleep with a cell phone as close as their bedside table. The rise of products, services, apps that leverage this device comes as no surprise given its global footprint.

How the system works

Let’s walk through what the user experience would look like when capturing and sharing a smell.

Let’s say you find yourself out on a walk and you pass a coffee shop that reminds you of a friend you used to share morning coffee with daily. You decide you want to share this coffee shop’s scent with your friend to remind her of those moments you used to share so you capture the scent with your Wafy device. The device sends the information to the Open&ense framework which translates those core components captured into M3P-CEF code. The Open&ense framework creates a custom &AMP tag. You can upload a picture or create a social media post to your favorite social media platform leveraging your &AMP tag. When your friends see your post and possess a Wafy device they can choose to receive the scent from you. The Open&ense framework delivers the ‘recipe of scent’ to their device so that they can enjoy the smells through technology.

Defining the Frameworks

Service Framework



1. Core component of smell can be categorized based on the following basic components:

Musky, Putrid (ex: rotten eggs), Pungent (ex: vinegar), Pepperminty, Camphoraceous (ex: moth balls), Ethereal (ex: dry cleaning fluid), Floral

2. The ‘coding language’ of scent. Can be considered akin to the printing categorization of CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key – Black)

&AMP tag


1. The way that a user calls and accesses the Open&ense framework or the Scentone library with the intent to share scent with another user.

2. &AMP tag can be placed in a multitude of electronic media not limited to social media, text, email.



1. Online framework that translates captured or customized smells into M3P-CEF language.

2. A tagging symbol (&AMP) calls to the Open&ense framework when a smell is customized or captured through a capture device (Wafy) and will return the M3P-CEF code to deliver that scent to another remote user through a capture device (Wafy).



1. Leverages the M3P-CEF language to describe scents. Users can browse through this website to find smells, compare captured/ customized smells to the ‘source’ scent code, as well as purchase smells through a ‘scentstock’ digital library with the intent to deliver to a user.

Service Framework



1. A consumer facing prototype based off the device used in perfume and flavor industries to capture scent compounds.   It is the foundational device and technology leveraged in the Wafy device.



1. The practice of capturing scents.

Similar to the way photography captures light, scentography captures the molecular composition of smell leveraging the M3P-CEF language.



1. The device that a user attaches to their phone via the headphone jack to scan and print M3P-CEF smell. Cartridges are inserted into the device and can be used up to 100 times (depending on use). M3P-CEF cartridges can purchased at the same location you buy your Wafy device.    

Examples of Use

Philz Coffee is located in the San Francisco Bay Area and was the first corporation to capitalize on the Open&sense framework. Through this they’ve built solutions for both internal business units and consumer facing smartphone application.

Rather than relying on one person to make the bean selection remotely, the entire team can be a part of the decision making process as the in field team member can scan and deliver the beans smell to decision makers. Philz internal business solution has allows the corporate team to source beans, store the bean’s smell data for future access as well as speed up the decisions making process for new additions to the Philz line.

Philz Coffee also integrated the Open&ense framework into their already existing consumer facing smartphone app. Now, in addition to ordering their coffee from their phone, they can smelling the roast options before they order. All done before they even step foot in the store.

Philz Internal Business Solution

Philz coffee sourcing used to take weeks of travel for a team to source, sample, and to make a purchasing decision. Now with the internal Open&ense solution, all they have to do is send one person on a sourcing expedition. At the start each trip the traveler logins into the secure phliz business app and throughout the trip they utlize a Wafy device to log and capture samples from a each plot. Location and farm information is captured within the GPS meta data.

The remote person links up with the corporate executive team via video conference while traveling to discuss each notable sample. The corporate team at Philz can access the bean catalogs via the Philz app while the trip continues.

The whole team is able to have a discussion, while sampling the beans via the Wafy, with images of the farmer and farm to make an informed collective decision.

Alerts that you have new video request and smell samples

Browsing samples from catalog

Logging into Philz corporate portal

Specific smell rating and comments

Collection of smell location catalogs

User input of ratings and comments

Power of Smell Case Study