Sunday, April 10, 2016

Innosparks - Another Singapore Success Story

[Media Invite]

I wonder if you remember the time when the PSI hit all-time high of 401 in 2013, or have your memories turned hazy? I remember it too well, as I feared for the health of my kiddos and I can recall exactly how difficult it was to get the N95-certified masks from the stores then. Tensions ran high as pharmacies and shops run out of masks due to panic-buying, and the government had to issue a public statement on our stockpile of 9 million masks and to reassure all citizens that there was no need to panic at all. I did manage to get my hands on some masks from my contacts, but the best masks I could buy then, were still not of the right sizes for my young kiddos. 

You can see all sorts of masks worn by people on the hazy streets, ranging from surgical masks that offered little (if any) protection from the fine particles, to the impressive-looking VOG masks with replaceable filters. But still, none were really meant for kiddos, except perhaps the cute-looking cloth ones that had questionable air-filtering qualities and were terribly difficult to breathe from (especially when it’s damp). That drove me crazy. For which parent wouldn’t want to keep their kiddos safe from harm? 

In our hearts we all knew that the haze would be back, and it did with a vengeance. In September last year, sensing that the haze would be back really soon, I decided to do my research online to find suitable masks for the kiddos, and found my answer in Innosparks (a member of ST Engineering). you may not be familiar with the company, but I am sure Air+ Smart Masks would ring a bell, no? I emailed them and ended up with a collaboration on public education of their innovative Air+ Micro Ventilators as well as their Air+ Smart Mask (check out our previous review post here). I was glad I acted early, for the situation worsened and the 24-hr PSI reached hazardous level within the next couple of days, resulting in the closure of all primary and secondary schools.

These products were the most sought after since the last time haze hit the island.
Having been in contact with the friendly folks from the company since last year, the kiddos and myself decided to pay them a visit at their office. We finally got to meet the "sparks" behind the innovation in person, and found out more about the product development. So the story goes that the government was concerned about the well-being of us citizens and issued a challenge to ST Engineering, to find a solution to our yearly haze situation. Short of dousing the forest fires on our own, there was an urgent need to find a viable solution to keep the harmful haze particles off Singaporean lungs. Thus a 4-member project team was set up to tackle the following problems we faced when wearing masks -

  • Masks available to the general public are often ill-fitting, especially for Asians and young children. 
  • It requires much effort to breathe if the masks are required to filter the extra fine particles. Think N95. 
  • Prolonged inhaling and exhaling increase the moisture level and heat, making the wearer REALLY uncomfortable. 

First-time father and Product Manager, Jerome patiently went through the background and the product development process with the family, despite meeting his nemesis in Leroy with his 1001 questions! We were able to see, touch and feel the various prototypes and understand the thought process behind, that eventually led to the final product.

Product Manager, Jerome can still smile before the kiddos bombard him with their 1001 questions!
Luckily the kiddos behaved quite well, and was able to pay close attention to the presentation, without giving him too much trouble!
The very first mask sizings made of crude plastic cut-outs that were simply taped together with scotch tape.
The kiddos were entertained by the various fun activities they took part in, that were actually instrumental during the development phase. They had their face scanned, took breathing tests with the masks on and aimed a thermal imaging device at friendly software engineer, Daniel. These were all actual tests / procedures done on over 850 local test subjects, and the final sizing of the masks was a result of careful data analysis via Daniel's algorithm on facial measurement and profiling! How cool is that?
Leroy is not sleeping, just having a scan done!
Having a look at his own 3D face scan! 
And this is a 3D plastic print out done inhouse! Not his face of course, although I was tempted to ask for one... I mean four... Heck, make it six! 
Leroy volunteered to do the breathing test and was fitted with the right size.
And of course he tried the breathing test too!
This thermal imaging device allows one to see exactly how "hot" the person is. Not a x-ray device.
And then they all started pointing at poor Daniel, who had to be the guinea pig wearing the mask. While Leroy chomped on his donut casually.
It took over a year of research and development, as well as trial testing before the Air+ Smart Masks and Micro Ventilators finally hit the shelves. After having tried the masks myself last year, and watched the kiddos don their masks and micro ventilators without fuss then, I can say with conviction, that the primary objectives had all been met. The masks fitted snugly on the kiddo's faces while the valve allowed easy breathing (even for kiddos) and the micro ventilator reduced the moisture and heat generated to a comfortable level, even for extended use!

The team went through quite a few models of cooling fans. Some were strong but bulky while others were light but weak.
And finally the chosen one that was just right! Safe, light and relatively strong!
Even the shape, texture and color of the valve caps were being deliberated. These were all prototypes, save the top one which became the standard issue. Don't you wish they were available in different colours too?
As parents, besides getting the Air+ Smart Masks from Watsons, Guardian or Unity (it is now available online at as well), it is important for us to set a good example to the kiddos. I have seen far too many cases of parents forcing the masks onto their children and yet they themselves walk unprotected in the thick haze. Not a good idea to send mixed signals right? 

I have no doubts, that should the haze return, which it would, that Singaporeans will be well-protected, thanks to the "sparks" behind this wildly popular product (during haze periods). In fact, this product was so successful last year, that I received countless enquiries from friends, family and readers, and everyone was asking me how the ventilators worked and where they can get them.

The kiddos got first dips into lots more secret stuff, thanks to Jerome and Daniel but we were unable to disclose more. Darn.
We had an awesome time at your office, learning so much more about Air+ Smart Masks!
It was indeed our great pleasure to be given a tour of your office and facilities (even though everything also cannot photograph!) and for the kiddos to be treated like very important customers. Thank you so much for having us the other day Innosparks, you rock!

Useful Information

Click here for the FAQ regarding Air+ Smart Mask. Otherwise I would just be repeating the same.
Or follow them on their Air+ Smart Mask Facebook page for more updates and promotions (if any).

And if you want to buy the masks, go to the physical shops like Watsons, Guardian or Unity. But the easiest and I heard, the cheapest way, would have to be checking out Lazada here for the savvy online shoppers.

Got discount some more wor.

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