Published: 07 October 2020.
Toronto – Textile computing specialist Myant Inc., which offers a high-tech partnership with German flat knitting machine builder Stoll, has developed three concept facemasks which integrate technologies capable of collating biometric sensing data.
The company has branched its Skiin network of interconnected biometric garments into the realm of personal protective equipment (PPE), recognising that items such as facemasks are likely to become a huge part of people’s day-to-day lives.
The three patent-pending mask concepts, designed for healthcare, fitness, and workplace use cases, “serve as a guiding vision for the development of the company’s first connected biometric mask to be commercialised later this year”, Myant says.
The concept masks are modular by design and feature an N95-level filtration layer positioned on top of a nose-bridge that separates airflow coming from the nose and the mouth, and a flexible silicone seal.
These components are held in place by a knitted cover that includes heated yarns and electrostatic yarns that enhance protection against infectious agents, as well as temperature sensing yarns that enable sensing of respiration rate.
These yarns draw power through conductive yarns that connect to a module which sends data via BLE to the user’s nearby mobile device. Additional sensing is enabled through integrated VOC sensors, sweat and saliva sensors, a carbon dioxide sensor, an in-ear IR sensor (for body temperature measurement), and a PPG sensing ear clip (for HRV and SpO2).
“By virtue of being in close proximity to the nose and mouth, the mask form factor presents an opportunity for a connected textile to collect data on emissions from the respiratory system via volatile organic compound (VOC) sensing, providing new ways to assess health and performance for the user,” Myant explains.
In terms of the product’s longevity, Myant has factored in the disassembly of such a product – as mask washing is encouraged whatever the brand – and says hand washing, the use of disinfectant sprays or autoclaving is possible.
“The conversation around wearing a mask while exercising has largely been a discussion about which masks are least impactful on the user’s performance,” Myant says. “Researchers from the University of Leipzig in Germany conducted a prospective cross-over study to investigate the impact of N95 and surgical masks on heart/lung responses of subjects during an incremental cycling test to exhaustion, concluding that ventilation, cardiopulmonary exercise capacity and comfort are reduced by surgical masks and highly impaired by N95 face masks in healthy individuals,” Myant explains.
It adds: “Another study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine suggests that air-flow restricting masks can increase the rate of perceived exertion and decrease performance during resistance training.”
It’s with this then that Myant will look to further develop these masks with scope to launching them soon. What’s certain is that facemasks and other forms of PPE will become a staple item in society, and the Canadian firm is reacting to that to broaden its Skiin platform.