Dubbed FaceBit, the lightweight sensor uses a tiny magnet to attach to any N95 cloth or surgical face mask.

It is capable of sensing the user’s real-time respiration rate, heart rate and mask wear time, and may also be able to measure the fit of the mask.

All this information is then wirelessly transmitted to a smartphone app, which contains a dashboard for real-time health monitoring. The app can alert the user when issues such as an elevated heart rate or a leak in the mask unexpectedly arise.

The physiological data could also be used to predict fatigue, physical health status and emotional state.

Although a tiny battery powers the device, FaceBit is designed to harvest energy from any variety of ambient sources – including the force of the user’s breathing, motion and heat from a user’s breath as well as from the sun. This extends the sensor’s battery life, lengthening time between charges.

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Robert Heaton