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11 October, 2021 - 12:47 By Tony Quested

Heaven scent: Cambridge startup sniffs wellbeing breakthrough

Cambridge startup eScent has created a face mask that uses transformative technology to ensure the wearer is protected from any harmful consequences.

The technology has broader uses to help reduce mental distress. Business Weekly highlighted the first iteration of the scent delivery system when it was in its infancy eight years ago.

eScent is an alumni of the Impulse Programme for tech innovators curated at the Maxwell Centre in Cambridge. It is the inspiration of founding entrepreneur Jenny Tillotson.

The company believes its’ wearable platform technology has the ability to create individual transformative wellbeing experiences.  

According to the mental health charity, MIND, one in four people will experience a mental health problem of some kind each year in England, while one in six will experience a common mental health problem such as anxiety and depression in any given week. 

Following the coronavirus pandemic, rates of addiction and suicide are at an all-time high, and loneliness has reached epidemic proportions. According to the World Health Organisation, an estimated 500 million people suffer from anxiety and depression. 

The wearing of facemasks may have aggravated the welfare of individuals throughout the Covid crisis. Facemasks are uncomfortable to wear; they retain moisture, irritate the skin and create psychological barriers, as well as triggering panic and breathing problems. 

As the pandemic progressed, this had a negative psychological impact on NHS workers especially, with many experiencing PTSD, anxiety, depression and burn-out.

According to a BMA Survey of 7,000 doctors during the pandemic, 44 per cent said that they were suffering from depression, anxiety/stress, or other mental health condition made worse by their work.

Additionally, the use of PPE is said to be devastating ecosystems and polluting oceans. Approximately 129 billion disposable masks, mostly made from plastic microfibres, and 65 billion disposable gloves have been used every month during the pandemic, according to a study in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.   

This collective anxiety, combined with growing environmental emergencies, provides opportunities to build a more nurturing society with global consciousness. 

To that end, eScent partnered with the Imagination Factory and Anchored-IN to develop a re-usable enhanced FFP3 facemask which offers “personal protective assurance” – that is, a personalised and renewable scent as a self-delivered biofeedback intervention for mental distress.

Protected by several awarded and pending patents, eScent is a product concept that integrates hardware, software and a subscription-based fragrance service as a catalyst to improve health, emotional wellbeing and performance. 

eScent founder, Jenny Tillotson says: “We are on a mission to help humanity recover from the pandemic, and to reconnect with our most primitive of senses – our sense of smell. 

“eScent can be integrated into multiple different form factors, leading to many uses and benefits. This is just the start of what is going to be a very exciting 18 months as we miniaturise the delivery system and look forward to building partnerships in a variety of markets including the wellbeing, fashiontech, protection, entertainment and psychedelic medicine sectors.”

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

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