- Contactless mask vending machine is called ‘MaskUpNow’
- The IoT based machine requires a QR code to dispense a mask
- The customisable ‘MaskUpNow’ machine starts from Rs. 30,000
New Delhi: “Make no mistake: we have a long way to go. This virus will be with us for a long time”, said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General at the World Health Organisation (WHO) in a media briefing on April 22. Other health experts like Dr Randeep Guleria, Director of AIIMS and advisor to the government for the COVID-19 strategy have also noted that the Novel Coronavirus will not disappear for quite some time and we will have a new normal – wearing mask, maintaining social distance, practising good hand hygiene and others. At a time when wearing a mask has become a new normal or as Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called it ‘a part of life’, a Delhi based creative technology solution company called OtherLogic Experiential India (OLE India) has innovated a contactless mask vending machine ‘MaskUpNow’.
The idea behind the MaskUpNow is simply to ensure people have access to masks anytime, anywhere. Elaborating on the idea behind the innovation, 34-year-old Ankit Kumar Monga, co-founder of OLE India said,
In our friends circle only we noticed that people were out in the public domain without a mask. If you ask them the reason, they will simply say ‘I left home in a hurry, since I’m going to the market, I will buy one from the chemist’ or ‘I am afraid his stock is over today, so here I am without a mask.’ We realised that many a time people miss out on wearing a mask not intentionally but sort of incidentally. It is then we decided to make masks available at all public places and ensure people stop giving excuses.
The seed of the idea was sown with the team looking for a solution. A self-service kiosk or a vending machine was one of the options but the traditional machines are either driven by touch screen or pressing buttons. With the world battling with Coronavirus pandemic and experts stressing on hand hygiene, the team wanted to offer contactless delivery of masks which means traditional vending machines were a big no.
We developed an IoT (Internet of Things) based device which can work with smartphones as well as feature phones of all kinds. In three simple steps, one can get a mask from our single screen unit. All one needs to do is, open any browser, login to our website and fill a small form. Following this, a QR code will be generated which needs to be shown to the screen at the top. A mask sealed in plastic packaging is dispensed and can be collected by the user, said Mr Monga.
The team says that the product is customisable and can be designed as per the needs and requirements of the organisation taking it up or the location it is being deployed at. For instance, UPI payment method can be incorporated and one can buy a mask for Rs. 8-10; for rural areas, instead of QR code, the machine can operate on SMS service.
The prototype of the machine is ready and the patent for the same is underway. Talking about the cost of the machine and sharing maintenance details, Mr Monga said,
The machine starts from Rs. 30,000 and can store 150 masks. Since the machine is customisable in terms of size, payment method, type of masks to be stored, and other things, the cost will vary. Also, it has embedded sensors that generate timely updates and notifications about the machine. This will enable efficient management, and ease of maintenance for a large number of units. We have our well-trained team and will work with site owners and authorities to ensure the machines are always well-stocked.
Though the mask is a new normal, the government of India has clearly stated that any clean cotton cloth can be used as a mask which means, if a person is not carrying a face mask, he/she can resort to a handkerchief, scarf, or any other piece of cloth. With these simpler options being available, will people resort to taking a mask from ‘MaskUpNow’ machine? Talking about the same, 38-year-old Nihar Mudgal, co-founder at OLE India said,
Not everyone is using a cloth; some are using a proper facemask. Also, during summer, a mask gets sweaty and smelly and it needs to be changed regularly. So, people should have an option for that. Our machine is like a fire extinguisher, it should always be there.
Currently, the team is looking out for a location to deploy the first machine and is in touch with some government officials, hoping to put up their innovation for public use, soon.