In police work, it's important to be able to prove that what you suspect is a narcotic really is a narcotic. Needless to say, the faster you can do so, the better. It is with this in mind that Spectral Engines (a spinoff company from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland) is creating a portable drug-screening device. It's described as "the first re-usable pocket-sized scanner for police patrols."

Being developed under the name NarcoScan, the device weighs just a few hundred grams. It's reportedly much smaller than any competing products, and perhaps more importantly, should cost about one twentieth as much. Its small size and low price are partially due to the fact that instead of having its own processor and display, it utilizes a linked smartphone.

Using infrared spectroscopy, the device analyzes suspected illicit substances in the field. Its raw data is transmitted via the phone to cloud-based servers, where it's analyzed utilizing proprietary algorithms. The results are then transmitted back, and are displayed on an app screen on the phone.

The whole process is said to take just a matter of seconds, and can currently identify drugs such as cocaine, heroin and amphetamine from very low concentrations. As new designer drugs are created, the identification algorithms can be updated to include those as well.

Plans call for a pilot project to begin early next year, with an official product launch taking place in the spring (Northern Hemisphere).

View gallery - 2 images