man taking breath

The “Smart” Mask May Be the Best Mask You’ve Ever Worn

Masks are designed to prevent sickness. These will tell you if you're sick in the first place.

We’re all just about done wearing masks, right? But before you decide to throw mask-wearing aside, consider the “smart” mask.

Led by assistant professor at the University of Missouri’s MU College of Engineering Zheng Yan, researchers released a study about smart technology and how wearable bioelectronic devices can improve your health, most notably with tracking vital signs (1). The study centers around the “smart” mask, a wearable face mask that monitors coughs in real time to identify certain diseases.

The “Smart” Mask

Yan and fellow researchers developed the new mask in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As masks became the norm, it seemed reasonable for them to spin off this idea infusing smart tech with masks. The lightweight, zero-power face mask uses bioelectronics to monitor a person’s cough frequency in an effort to identify the development of certain respiratory diseases.

“Different respiratory problems lead to different cough frequencies and degrees,” Yan told Medical Xpress.

Yan’s mask relies on a battery-free radio frequency transponder that is stretchable, breathable, and comfortable, as opposed to the traditional on-chip sensors used in other smart tech devices. Researchers note the idea of a wireless face mask will better assess and identify diagnosis for several diseases while being comfortable for the user.


Cough Frequency and Disease

Cough frequency is simply the amount of coughs produced by an individual. One study notes the average number of coughs for healthy adults was 18.6 in a 24-hour period (2). Various respiratory diseases will have different cough frequencies which allow this mask to identify and address a specific problem.

“Taking chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as an example, the frequency of cough in the early morning is higher than that in the daytime and night,” Yan told Medical Xpress. “Our smart face mask can effectively monitor cough frequencies, which may assist physicians with knowing disease development and providing timely, customized interventions.”

From watches and rings and other more trivial wearables, there’s a chance the future of smart tech and biohacking lies in health-forward face coverings.