A Fitbit gadget has appeared that attaches to a mask and monitors the vital signs of the one who wears it.

Health care workers often have to wear a medical mask for up to 12 hours straight, during which time they can begin to filter the air less well and let in viruses. The authors of the new work have created a device to be installed on the mask: it is designed to provide assistance, monitor their vital signs and detect leaks in the mask seal.

Researchers at Northwestern Illinois University have created a prototype gadget they call FaceBit. It is about the size of a coin and attaches to the inside of any type of N95 mask – cloth or surgical – with a small magnet. It is powered by a battery and also receives energy from movement, light, and the wearer’s heat and breath.

FaceBit can determine the strength of individual breaths and can calculate the user’s breathing rate. It also tracks the small movements of the head that accompany each heartbeat, and by determining the difference between them and other body movements, it calculates the user’s heart rate. In addition, FaceBit can detect if the mask has become less effective in filtering the air. This means that the seal between the mask and the wearer’s skin may be broken.

All this data is transmitted via Bluetooth to the smartphone application. It can alert the wearer to high levels of physical exertion, fatigue, and when the mask needs to be changed. This data can also be received by the administrator in order to track several employees at once.

It is noted that the technology still needs to be tested using clinical trials. It is an open source system, so you can participate in its development.