Physicians and engineers in the Netherlands said they are developing a “smart mask” that uses sensors and data to monitor a wearer's temperature and respiration and warns them when the mask needs replacing.
Though the mask is still in the development stage, researchers at the Holst Center, an independent research and development technology lab in the city of Eindhoven, said in addition to monitoring vital signs, a humidity sensor can indicate if the mask is functioning properly.
The core technology has already been largely developed in a joint research project with multiple partners to commercialize the smart mask. Holst Center researcher Ashok Sridhar said the mask was designed with practical applications to indicate if the wearer is basically healthy.
Sridhar said the mask will also tell wearers how the mask itself is doing. He said people tend to buy masks and wear them longer than they are intended.
“By measuring the humidity of the filter, you can also indicate that the mask cannot be used anymore. And the idea is to replace the mask, so that the effectiveness is retained."
The mask is going through a testing phase, and researchers hope to add further functionality, such as alerting users if they inhale toxic substances.
The mask uses flexible sensors that are printed into the fabric. The researchers said the Holst Center pioneered this printed electronics technology. They are using it to develop a T-shirt that can monitor the wearer’s vital signs during athletic training and report back to the user through a laptop or smartphone.