The potential of terrorists and other enemies to use the Internet and/or other digital information technologies as transport vehicles of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) is becoming more evident. This threat may involve cyber-assisted biochemical transactions, which can be performed through olfactory information exchanges, to attack civilian and military targets anytime. In response, this research is the product of a four-year investigation wherein the researcher went through a rich archive of declassified U.S. military reports (covering biochemical warfare and techno-terrorism)and a selective list of patent applications revealing several concepts related to users’ adoption of emergent cyber-assisted olfaction and aroma-embedded information systems. And after a rigorous analysis of the findings, the researcher hypothesized that careless adoption of unsafe technologies could accelerate a cyber-WMD-nexus.
Thus, the study conducted in support of this research sought to examine and explain the adoption of emergent cyber-assisted olfactory information technologies. Cyber-assisted olfaction is an emergent technology that involves the replication of the human sense of smell by computer systems. It can be manifested in the stimulation of human olfactory receptors by computer-emitted biochemical or aromatic particles. Certain olfaction-based biosensors, known as electronic noses, mimic the sense of smell to detect chemical plumes (aroma or warfare agents) in a variety of settings. Notably, the literature revealed an innovative dimension of multimodal, affective human-computer interactions involving scented emails, aroma therapy, and olfaction-based marketing. Unfortunately, the lack of security and safety persists at a potentially catastrophic cost, which is at the root of the researcher’s stated research problem below.
Largely supported by Everett Rogers’ innovation diffusion theory (IDT) and Fred Davis’ technology acceptation model (TAM), the researcher went beyond the “smell-o-vision” aphorism to offer a fertile ground for a new, comprehensive, and flexible framework to understand various aspects of cyber-assisted olfactory information systems, which may be usefully applied to a wide range of auxiliary information systems (i.e., standard, micro, and nano devices). In relation to national security and defense, the proposed Model for Safer Cyber-Assisted Olfaction (MSCAO) can be applied in subway systems, aircrafts, cruise ships, and various mixing/distribution systems (i.e., water systems and chemical plants) to automatically detect and neutralize a biological or chemical threat. Many military applications are also anticipated for emerging urban warfare and emergency rescue operations using devices such as miniature robots and nano air vehicles (NAVs).
Consistent with the aim of this investigation, the researcher used a mixedmethods approach that combined (1) the content analysis of a series of declassified military reports on airborne warfare agents with that of (2) a patent search on aroma embedded information systems to examine, with the help of a carefully designed survey instrument, the perceptions of potential adopters of the proposed MSCAO. Further, in order to collect data and obtain statistical evidence linked to the selected variables (perceived credibility, ease-of-use, and usefulness), the researcher surveyed a diverse group of students from a major Engineering School in southeastern United States, which offers degree programs in Mechanical, Electrical, Chemical and Biomedical Engineering. Based on the analysis performed, credibility, ease-of-use, and usefulness were found to be significant enough to be considered as positively influencing the acceptability of the MSCAO. In essence, the respondents expressed a significantly high level of need for harm-reduction and cyber security measures against potential threats and considered the MSCAO as meeting their need.
Perceived usefulness (67%) was identified as the principal determinant of the respondents’ intention to adopt the proposed model. Though less substantial than perceived usefulness, perceived ease-of-use (56%) appeared to have a greater influence on the MSCAO than perceived credibility (54%). In sum, extrapolating from the findings reported herein, the researcher concluded that potential users are more likely to accept an emergent technology that is useful, easy-to-use, and that offers credible harm-reduction measures.