Wearing a face mask has become normal. In fact, it’s perhaps so normal that we might even continue to wear one outside after the corona crisis. After all, such a mask stops a lot more than just viruses. Dutch-Italian start-up Narvalo will soon market bring a face mask that even provides information about the air quality. And it also monitors your breathing.

Narvalo launched their new product, the Urban Active, on Kickstarter in early March. The active ventilation version of their previous FFP3 face mask reached half of its goal of €50,000 within the first two hours. At this point, more than €60,000 has already been raised.

“The campaign is still running. In any case, we are already really pleased with this result,” Arthur van der Werf from Narvalo states. “As soon as the campaign is finished, we will be able to make announcements about when the mask will be on the market.”

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Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, former TU/e student and Dutch designer Ewoud Westerduin began designing the Urban Mask. Narvalo subsequently rose from his master’s thesis at the Politecnico in Milan. Thanks to the collaboration with the Italian manufacturer BLS, the start-up was able to put the first mask on the market. This Urban Mask filters more than 99 percent of pollutants from inhaled air, such as particulate matter, pollen, odors, viruses and bacteria.

Awareness

Ewoud Westerduin: “Nowadays, the air that we breathe in our cities contains many harmful substances that threaten our health.” This is why, in his opinion, it is very important for people to protect themselves against these. There is also another aspect at play, Arthur van der Werf explains. “It’s not just about enabling people to protect themselves in this way. It also contributes to people’s awareness that the air is polluted in lots of places.”

The regular mask, which meets the FFP3 standard, features a passive filter. The new Urban Active mask features active ventilation. The attachment has an integrated smart vemtilator that continuously optimizes the airflow inside the mask. This reduces the build-up of heat, moisture and especially CO2. At the same time, the presence of an abundance of filtered air inside makes it seem as if you are not wearing a mask at all, according to the company.

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Not just about protection

“We want to transform masks from a protective product into an informative product. One that offers important insights into the how the user is breathing,” says Venanzio Arquilla, president of Narvalo.

As a matter of fact, a dedicated app is available for the Urban Active. This allows you to read the data that the mask records with its sensors about your breathing. Based on the GPS position of the smartphone, the app also provides information about the air quality on site. The app can be downloaded for free from the app stores and can also be used without the Urban Active mask.

The smart ventilator can also be purchased separately and used on the regular Urban Mask that is already on the market. The filter fits securely over the face and prevents glasses from fogging up. This seal is antibacterial and therefore prevents any skin irritations caused by prolonged use of the mask.

Also interesting: Facial expression visible again thanks to See True mask

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About the author

Author profile picture Arnoud Cornelissen has for many years been writing about science and technology in, among others, various Dutch newspapers.