Meet the Football Hall of Famer bringing Smart Masks to students

During their respective seasons, The NFL had wristbands and the NBA had rings to keep players safe and ultimately track any potential COVID exposure. Pro Football Hall of Famer Champ Bailey has retired from football, but he noticed an important opportunity to make a difference when it comes to using technology to keep the most vulnerable people safe. 

While pro athletic leagues built ‘bubbles’ and used other tools to keep players safe, Bailey is now working to deploy networks of Smart Masks across schools to keep students safe. 

Bailey started to work with Georgia and Florida-based Modern Radio pre-COVID, but the partnership seemed like a natural opportunity to help school districts. “When COVID first hit, like most people, we were all trying to find a big pivot to do. We had a lot of projects where we’re doing air quality monitoring for some of our industrial customers,” Laron Walker, co-Founder and CTO of Modern Radio, told Hypepotamus. “And that led to the kind of ideation behind the Smart Mask product.” 


SMART MASK technology in schools 

There are several use cases for their Smart Mask, but the team is focused on deploying their technology in schools. The hardware/software combination, along with the physical mask, tracks mask-wearing compliance, generates CDC reporting, monitors air quality, and keeps tabs on body temperature. 

When Modern Radio works with a school, the team deploys a wireless network, similar to what you would see in any connected building. “Our software then is able to track on an individual basis — without us knowing who the particular student is — information on whether a student is wearing [a mask], if they are having issues, etc. That data is being connected back to a software platform that the school has access to,” said Walker. 

Laron Walker of Modern Radio

“What’s nice is that it helps schools with their compliance monitoring…and if there’s an issue or someone has been around somebody [with COVID], this enables us to do contact tracing in real-time, without having to do all these questionnaires and the contact solutions going on right now.” 

Walker added: “In most places that you visit today, when they’re doing the thermometer scans, we walk in the door, there is a point-in-place temperature measurement, but it’s a one-time measurement. So this particular technology, it gives you real-time monitoring of temperature.”

For Bailey, the focus is clearly on keeping kids safe and back to school. But, it is also a sound business decision. When contact tracing relies on individual questionnaires, “it’s really not business sound to have those little questionable points that you could easily get answers for.” 

Masks beyond a COVID world 

As Bailey talked about how professional athletes have access to more resources to keep COVID under control, he noticed one important trend. “What they always go back to is, ‘Were you wearing a mask?’” Typically, that answer required taking someone’s word at face value. 

Bailey and Walker were quick to point out that even though vaccines have been approved for emergency use, it will be several months before K-12 students will be potentially eligible to receive them. For the coming spring semester, masks will likely remain the main way to keep students safe inside a classroom.

But the technology-enabled masks might have wide-spread impacts even after COVID.

On the air quality side, the masks measure temperature, humidity, and other volatile organic compounds. “We can literally keep track of organic things that your body shouldn’t be inhaling.” 

It acts similar to a smog report, according to Walker. “When it’s like green is good, red is bad. That is the technology built into the app at its core.” The app allows schools to analyze and react in real-time to any changes in a student’s health. 

Modern Radio has launched its crowdfunding campaign to bring the Smart Mask to more school districts. 

For Bailey, who has pivoted to startup investing since retiring from football, working with Modern Radio is a unique chance to make a difference. “It’s right up my alley, I’m always trying to find ways to give back. And I thought this was the best component…how can we aid people and enable them to get back to their normal lives. The technology’s great,” Bailey told Hypepotamus. 


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