Novel color changing 'smart labels' will alert users to replace their face masks

Technology that will alert users to the need to replace their face mask has been unveiled by smart packaging company, Insignia Technologies.

Novel color changing
Emma Stirling, Product Development Scientist, Insignia Technologies

Designed to encourage safer mask practice while bringing peace of mind to the public, Insignia’s smart label changes color to indicate when a disposable face mask has reached the end of its recommended lifespan or when a re-usable mask requires to be changed.

As Covid-19 cases rise in the UK, face masks are now part of everyday life, with requirements in place for people to wear them in public spaces including in hospitals and other medical settings. However, little attention has been given to whether people are changing their masks regularly enough.

Whilst the recommended maximum time to wear a mask is dependent upon a number of factors, The Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine has published its recommendation - typically between 4 to 6 hours - alongside recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Public Health England (PHE).

In medical settings, face masks and coverings are now mandatory for all NHS hospital staff, many of whom conduct working shifts of up to 12-hours at a time. Furthermore, hospitals have outpatients spending several hours in hospitals receiving treatment. As a result, the need to change masks regularly is essential in order to ensure their continued effectiveness.

With no current regulations in place to ensure that mask wearers are consistently changing their face coverings, Insignia’s label solution will create an additional level of reassurance to both hospital staff and patients, ensuring that the safety of all remains a top priority.

Founded in 2012, Insignia Technologies’ smart labels are used across the food and drink sector. With an estimated 18 million tonnes of edible food sent to landfill in the UK each year, Insignia set out on a mission to reduce food waste by developing a label that uses smart pigment technology to change color over time to show how long a packet of food has been open.

When Covid-19 hit the UK, Insignia’s team of scientists redeveloped its label technology so that it could be suitable for application on face masks.

We modified our labels so that they fit the recommended time frames given for effective mask use. The label sits on the outside of the face mask and changes color to indicate when the end of the recommended time has been reached, providing an easy to use visual reminder and marker of reassurance.”

Dr Graham Skinner, Product Development Manager, Insignia Technologies

We want to educate mask users of the importance of following recommended guidelines when it comes to face masks. Hospital staff and others in medical settings are required to wear masks at all times while at work, so it’s important that they remember to change their masks regularly in accordance with the suggested time frame - the same guidelines are relevant for those visiting hospitals for extended periods to receive treatment. By including our innovative label technology on masks, we can ensure that PPE is being used responsibly and isn’t being worn for too long, or thrown away too quickly.”

David Kilshaw, CEO, Insignia Technologies

Insignia Technologies’ labels are very versatile, making them suitable for a range of different markets. As well as adapting its color changing labels for use on face masks, Insignia has also modified a version of the label intended for use within the medical and healthcare sector. With many medical instruments and devices, such as endoscopes, requiring replacement after a defined timeframe, the technology helps by monitoring this timeframe, allowing staff to observe, check and replace a medical instrument or device appropriately. The label can ensure the safe use of medical devices, while helping to prevent infection.

Insignia prides itself on the simplicity of its product in comparison to others, which can have complex activation steps and can be costly to implement.

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