Do you smell like a locker room? Ask your smartphone

Do you smell like a locker room? Ask your smartphone
Japanese electronics maker Konica Minolta plans to sell a device, at right, for detecting unpleasant body odors. The device connects to a smartphone app.
PHOTO: The Wall Street Journal

If you've ever worried that your colleagues think you smell bad, an app now promises to tell you just that.

Japanese copier maker Konica Minolta Inc. plans to bring out a hand-held device called KunKun-"sniff, sniff" in Japanese-that purports to detect body odours, including those thought to characterize middle-aged men.

"It's difficult to recognise your own smell," said Daisuke Koda, 42 years old, who helped to develop the device, small enough to fit in a coat pocket, that connects to a smartphone application. "We can give relief by telling people how smelly they are and freeing them from the anxiety of not knowing."

The idea was the brainchild of Hiroshi Akiyama, 43, who about a year and a half ago began to worry about his body odour. He brought up the issue with Mr. Koda. Other colleagues, mostly men in their 40s, shared the concern.

The men weren't sure whether they smelled funny, but they felt confident they scented a business opportunity. Konica Minolta plans to sell KunKun for a few hundred dollars starting this summer, initially in Japan.

Japan is a particularly good market to try out an odour detector. The nation is known for its high hygiene standards and packed commuter trains where any deodorant lapse is hard to miss. There is even a word for inadvertently disturbing others through foul fragrance: sume-hara, or "smell harassment."

The company says the device can detect chemicals linked to three types of body odour.

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