After watches and rings, here is the connected mask

While wearable connected objects, such as watches or rings, have been around for a long time, they have benefited from increased interest from the general public during the pandemic. In fact, in addition to the gadget effect and monitoring of physical activity, these products also offer monitoring of the user’s state of health.

And now, to the panoply of connected devices for this health monitoring, we can also add the connected mask. In a press release published this week, Northwestern University (USA) announces the invention by its researchers of a connected mask intended for healthcare personnel (but which could also be useful for the general public).

Her name ? FaceBit or Fitbit (the connected watch brand acquired by Google) for the face. It is a device, the size of a coin, which can be attached inside an FFP2 type mask (or N95) thanks to a magnet.

Its primary function is to ensure that there is no no leaks, which can expose caregivers, especially those in contact with COVID patients. Before designing this electronic device, Josiah Hester, who led the development, interviewed caregivers to determine their needs. And in this survey, respondents said the most important thing was the quality of the fit of the mask.

To detect leaks, FaceBit measures the resistance of the mask. And when this resistance drops, which means there is an air leak, the user is alerted.

“If you wear a mask during 12 hours or more, your face may sometimes become numb , Hester said. “You may not even realize that your mask is coming loose because you can’t feel it or you’re too exhausted to notice. We can approximate the fit testing process by measuring the resistance of the mask. If we see a sudden drop in resistance, this indicates that a leak has formed and we can alert the wearer. »

© Northwestern

Nevertheless, the port of this connected object does not replace fit testing. A process that can last 10 minutes, to ensure that the mask is worn correctly and there is no leak.

Leak detection and health data measurement

“Although Hester’s FaceBit cannot yet replace this tedious process – which has been a long-standing challenge in the medical industry – it can ensure the mask stays snug between tests. If the mask becomes loose throughout the day or if the user bumps the mask during an activity, for example, FaceBit can alert the wearer” , writes the university.

In addition, the connected mask does not only detect leaks. The researchers also incorporated features that measure respiratory rate, as well as heart rate. The heartbeat is measured by detecting subtle facial movements generated by blood circulation.

All this information is relayed to a smartphone application. And according to the university, this information can also be used to detect stress, and for example advise the wearer to take a break.

As far as autonomy is concerned, the small device electronics has a battery. But it also uses other sources of energy, such as the user’s breath, heat, the sun, or even movement. In any case, thanks to this combo, the device can work 11 days without being charged.

Note also that the team behind this project has decided to return this one open source.