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Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner sniffs out potential for eScent to improve wellbeing with scent delivery system for facemasks



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Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner had a nose around the eScent offices at the Maxwell Centre, where he learned how its innovative scent delivery system for facemasks could aid wellbeing.

The AI-powered company, which has been funded by a £175,000 Innovate UK Sustainable Innovation Fund Award, has developed a reusable enhanced FFP3 facemask to offer “personal protective assurance”.

MP Daniel Zeichner with eScent founder Jenny Tillotson at the Maxwell Centre in JJ Thomson Avenue, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
MP Daniel Zeichner with eScent founder Jenny Tillotson at the Maxwell Centre in JJ Thomson Avenue, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

It uses sensors to dynamically respond to the wearer’s mood, delivering a personalised and renewable scent that is designed to improve the wearer’s wellbeing. eScent hopes it could reduce mental ill health among NHS staff and the wider population.

The Labour MP met with eScent founder Jenny Tillotson and colleagues at the Cambridge start-up, including its NHS advisors, to discuss applications for the technology within healthcare and beyond, before trying out the mask for himself.

He said: "At a time where the number of working days lost in the NHS due to mental health-related absences is at an all-time high, innovations like these give us a real opportunity to help protect the most precious commodity we possess, the health and wellbeing of our frontline workers.”

According to mental health charity Mind, some people find wearing a mask challenging for several reasons, including the triggering of breathing problems or, in some cases, memories of traumatic events.

Meanwhile, mental wellbeing is a growing issue in the NHS during the pandemic, with a BMA survey of 7,000 doctors finding 44 per cent felt they mental health conditions were being made worse by their work.

MP Daniel Zeichner with eScent founder Jenny Tillotson at the Maxwell Centre in JJ Thomson Avenue, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
MP Daniel Zeichner with eScent founder Jenny Tillotson at the Maxwell Centre in JJ Thomson Avenue, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

eScent believes it can help address some of these problems, while also avoiding the damage done by disposable masks - about 129 billion of them, mostly made from plastic microfibres, are believed to have used every month during the pandemic, along with 65 billion disposable gloves, according to a Environmental Science and Technology study.

Dr Tillotson said she was “delighted” to showcase the prototype FFP3 facemask to the MP.

“Daniel has been a huge supporter of the NHS and a vocal speaker on the climate emergency, and our transformative technology aligns with both of these issues, providing frontline workers with a self-administered scent delivery system to help reduce mental distress, whilst eliminating the need for single-use PPE on the planet,” she said.

eScent uses smart sensors, embedded with AI and voice analytics, to detect early increases in stress and other biometric parameters.

The sensors trigger the release of a localised cloud of scent that the company calls a ‘scent bubble’ that changes moment by moment, reacting to and anticipating the wearer’s mood at the right moment.

MP Daniel Zeichner with eScent founder Jenny Tillotson at the Maxwell Centre in JJ Thomson Avenue, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell
MP Daniel Zeichner with eScent founder Jenny Tillotson at the Maxwell Centre in JJ Thomson Avenue, Cambridge. Picture: Keith Heppell

Beyond facemasks, eScent says the patented wearable platform technology and AI-powered liquid dispenser can be deployed in a range of wearables, including garment buttons, jewellery, smart textiles and AR/VR headsets.

Over the next 18 months, It intends to miniaturise the delivery system and sniff out opportunities in markets including the wellbeing, fashiontech, protection, entertainment and psychedelic medicine sectors.

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