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As cities reopen from lockdown or stay-at-home ordinance, masks have become mandatory across the globe to reduce the spread of COVID-19. A rising number of people, especially the doctors and nurses on the front line of the battle fighting against Coronavirus feels that the face mask makes communication difficult, is often misused, and irritates the face.
For example, during COVID times, in the operating room, surgical masks must be combined with a face shield, which makes communication at the operating table more difficult.
Smart face mask is here
Since the status quo warrants everyone to wear face masks, a team of Belgian entrepreneurs and experts from Forcit Benelux and Holst Center have prepared a prototype of a ‘smart face mask’ to eliminate the practical inconveniences for doctors.
“The momentum is there. The market is ripe, the business plan is foolproof, and the expertise and technology are available”, says Henri Jacobs, Managing director of Forcit Benelux, one of the initiators.
Make people’s lives safer and easier
It is worth noting that the ‘smart face mask’ is aimed at the professional (medical) world. “It was Dr Verougstraete who triggered the demand for more intelligent masks ”, says Henri Jacobs. “Today, you do not find smart masks specifically intended for the medical sector on the global market. So far, there are only smart masks without certification that can be applied in air-polluting situations. Which, therefore, do not meet the European (medical) standards and certification”.
Compatible with apps
The development of a smart mask happens in two phases – first generation and second generation. The first-gen smart mask can amplify voice through a built-in microphone and speaker, notifies filter replacement time, learn from data analysis based on breathing, and of course, make breathing easier. The mask can be connected to the app as well.
Second-gen masks will have sensors
In a second-generation, sensors in the mask will measure and report data via the linked app. Furthermore, technology, including monitor parameters such as temperature, oxygen saturation, breathing rhythm, and more will be added at a later stage. This way, the mask can preventively monitor and predict a user’s state of health.
Offered exclusively to doctors
The pilot version of the first generation of the “smart face mask” uses 3D printing for production and integrates Holst Centre’s communication technology.
The intelligent mask is widely applicable to doctors, nurses, and patients. Henri Jacobs: “Everyone is initially thinking about protection against COVID-19, but once finalised, the ‘smart face mask’ must enable early detection of respiratory infections”.
In the pilot phase, the intelligent face masks will be offered exclusively to doctors, here.
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“I think it resonates with people because they’re able to see it for themselves,” said Dr. Keith Mortman, who worked with a company called Surgical Theater to create that virtual reality rendering of the lungs. “I think it puts it in such a context that the general public can look at those 3D, 360-degree virtual reality images, recognize them as lungs, and recognize the abnormal portion of the lungs, and see how quickly a patient can become sick.”
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