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NarcoScan pocket-sized and affordable narcotics screener: making drug detection on the streets as common as catching drunk drivers

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - NarcoScan (NarcoScan pocket-sized and affordable narcotics screener: making drug detection on the streets as common as catching drunk drivers)

Reporting period: 2018-06-01 to 2019-06-30

Illegal narcotics pose an ever-rising global problem. It is estimated that 1 in 20 adults, or a quarter of a billion people aged 15–64 years, used at least one drug in 2014. Current funds and resources are insufficient to manage the reduction of both demand and supply and therefore new, more efficient methods are needed. Illegal narcotics are a huge global problem. EU citizens spend over €24 billion and US citizens over €100 billion every year on illicit drugs. Global spending amounts to anywhere between €300-400 billion based on retail prices – which is more than three times of what is spent on fighting illicit drugs.

Detecting illicit drugs outside of laboratory environments can be extremely dangerous, expensive and time consuming. Unnecessary exposure to unknown substances and prolonged waiting times with perpetrators cause futile risks to police officers in the field. On top of being unsafe, current methods such as test kits and Raman devices are also either slow, designed to be used only once or too expensive for most police departments. Many departments are already eliminating field testing because of the high costs and dangers of sample preparation and field test kits, such as drug exposure, chemical burns and cuts from the test kit ampules.

With Spectral Engines’ solution no sample preparation is needed, as it can scan through bags, using infra-red light to detect the sample. Optical reading requires no sample preparation and does not alter the sample reducing the risk for unnecessary exposure. This solution will considerably lower the costs of narcotic screening and make field testing safe and actionable. The device runs on a secure, intelligent cloud with an ever-expanding narcotics library, and the cloud connection with advanced machine learning algorithms ensure the detection of unknown samples. An easy-to-use mobile app shows the results in just seconds. NIR-spectrometers are widely used in many fields to measure material content and have a proven track record in getting highly accurate measurement data in laboratory conditions.
During the second half of the project, Spectral Engines has done hardware and software productization, business development and piloting activities.

The Narcoscan device is based on the NIRONE Scanner family at Spectral Engines. A customization work has been carried out for both hardware and software. Next generation NarcoScan scanner solution development work includes a platform development for Bluetooth connected, battery operated spectral sensor that can communicate with cloud server through a mobile phone gateway. The mobile app operates the scanner over Bluetooth and relays the measured spectrum to the cloud server for analysis. The mobile app also displays the results of the cloud analysis. The implemented solution is technically a centralized distributed system. It relies on edge nodes analysing measurements and feeding the data to central data storage. The architecture follows micro services principles and is thus easy to expand and modify. Security and privacy have a high priority in this application. All data are encrypted in transit and identifiable data on individual level is not collected. We have developed deep learning algorithms that work across any of the devices we produce, data collection pipeline, and data augmentation tools. Substantial body of work has been done to develop algorithms that can detect narcotics from mixtures of chemicals. Deep learning -based algorithms are deployed in production, as they can work on all of the devices without explicit calibration transfer function.

We present our go-to-market strategy and how we have planned our marketing and sales efforts to each customer segment. We present our value proposition and marketing strategy to them. Market, meaning both end-users and distributors, has shown a high interest to our product and it seems that there is a demand for this type of solution. Our device pricing and license fees seem to be acceptable.

The goal for the Narcoscan marketing and communication activities was to reach the target audience and build a public awareness. To prepare for the market launch, we created the product brand name TactiScan, designed a logo and a website to build the product brand and inform stakeholders (law enforcement officials, local municipalities, forensics labs, etc.) about our product.
Current portable hand-held analyzers cost EUR 20-40 000, which are deployed for analyzing illegal narcotics. Spectral Engines’ MEMS-spectral sensor technology enables this to be done at a fraction of the existing cost. Spectral Engines’ narcotics scanner is a highly accurate unit which will bring new levels of safety and efficiency to police fieldwork.

Spectral Engines’ narcotics scanner is capable of identifying the most commonly used and trafficked narcotics (cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and in the nearby future, fentanyl) even in low concentrations. New analogues can be added as they are recognized, and even ”designer drugs” can be added to the scanning library before they be-come widespread.