A version of this story first appeared in the May 2019 print issue of CommsMEA.
Dust, sand and pollution are a fact of life in many cities – and as anyone who lives in the region can attest, the Middle East is no exception. But while there are lots of face masks people can wear to reduce the impacts, not too many of those face masks have been on the runways at Fashion Weeks around the world or have their own app like O2O2.
Born in New Zealand, the technology behind O2O2 is ground-breaking in its own right, says CEO Dan Bowden.
“O2O2 create a highly localised pocket of slightly pressurised clean air in front of the nose and mouth,” he says.
“We achieve this through the use of fans on either side of the face, which pull the polluted air through an active nanofiber cleaning it in the process. This now clean air is propelled, colliding in front of the nose and mouth. When air collides, it is a higher air pressure than the ambient environment. By creating this pocket of slightly pressurised clean air, no polluted air can enter – it’s a little like the clean air manufacturing facilities, but a personalised, portable air system.”
And then there’s the app to go with the face mask.
“O2O2 was designed as new solution to air pollution and is as such a digital native,” says Bowden.
“What that means is that that too often hardware designers tag on an app, so they can say they have a smart device. What they really mean is that it’s connected. For us, the app is core to the overall experience – the app puts the user in control of the air that they breathe. It can tell them of the status of air pollution where they are, inform them that they are protected and inform them of the status of their facewear protection. From this base there is a whole host of features we can start to add to the user experience which can enhance the user’s life.”
O2O2 made waves a couple months ago when the facemasks were worn by models showcasing Seoul-based label IISE’s Autumn/Winter 2019 collection at New York Fashion Week. Then, the masks were worn during IISE’s show at Seoul Fashion Week this past March. Along the way, the company has also been profiled by the likes of Forbes, Engadget, Fast Company, Idealog, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch, Highsnobiety and more.
As buzz builds, Bowden says O2O2 is in the pre-market and testing phase – “with a select number of collaborators” – at present.
So what’s next? Bowden says it’s simple: making the face masks available for the public – and making the data the masks collect about pollution available so we can develop solutions to reduce or perhaps even eliminate the problem of pollution.
“Now that we have solved the personal protection problem, through better design we can use the data we can harvest to create the wider public solution,” says Bowden.
“So by definition our personal solution is a digital native device, and if we have a digital native device this enables us to start collecting the data on pollution from users – which means users are creating the environmental data to solve the problem for future generations.”
He adds: “The runway now is really to get the runway to the consumer, the person in the street.”
More info about O2O2 here: https://o2o2.co/.