What do wearables, Facebook and Formula One have in common?

  • July 29, 2021
  • Steve Rogerson

Steve Rogerson looks at a small wearable technology company’s battle with Facebook and his own experience of wearable technology at the British Grand Prix.

Facebook and other social media platforms have been having a hard time lately, and some of it justified, following much publicised hate speech incidents. On top of that, they have been fighting the battle to stop the spread of misinformation about Covid-19, but in one case that crossed my inbox recently it would appear Facebook at least has gone too far.

Let me tell you about Akhand Armour. This is a UK company based near Milton Keynes that has developed an interesting range of wearables to help in the fight against the pandemic. Whereas most wearable technology we have seen has been passive, in that they help wearers detect if they have or are in danger from the virus, Akhand Armour has developed active technology to go on the attack.

It is using two different chemicals that can be embedded into a facemask, for example, that can attract the virus and kill it. It has passed various laboratory tests and the company is selling the mask for about £40 each, and they work through 50 washes and can last around six months.

The problem the company is having is getting the message out. Facebook has let it set up a page but it has to be careful with phrases such as “antiviral” as Facebook can start to get jittery.

“Facebook and Instagram are not making it easy for us to let people know we exist,” said company founder Meena Hanspal, when I caught up with her this week. “We tried talking with Facebook but it is hard to get through to them. We have a Facebook page but we can’t say it kills the virus even though it does.”

I put this to Facebook and ended up playing a little bit of ping-pong messaging between Hanspal and Facebook’s press office. I explained to Facebook that even though the page was up, they were blocking other content. Facebook responded by saying that the page had had no content removed or restrictions placed on it.

I showed this to Hanspal and she sent me an email she had received from Facebook blocking one of the company’s advertisements. I passed this to Facebook and the spokeswoman just said they had nothing else to add on the issue.

I must admit it is hard to see where a small company can go from here against the social media giant, but I wish them luck.

The company probably originally caught my eye because it was based in Milton Keynes, which had been on my mind for two other connected health reasons that happened to me earlier this month. I was staying at a hotel in MK as a base for attending the British Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone. As this was before the official ending of lockdown in England, it was designated a Covid test event, which meant you had to prove either double vaccination or a recent negative test to be allowed in.

At least I managed to see some racing at Silverstone

I am double jabbed and have the app on my phone to prove it, but I did print out a copy because I never trust technology 100%; been bitten too many times. I needn’t have worried as the mobile app worked fine on the two qualifying days.

On the race day, however, I ended up watching the race on my mobile phone from a hospital bed. I had woken up that morning with a fluttering in my heart – race day excitement, I hoped, but reached for my Apple Watch and ran its ECG feature – atrial fibrillation and a 140 beats per minute heart rate. Not good. I repeated with the same result and called the NHS who dispatched an ambulance.

The paramedics were well impressed that my own ECGs matched their professional ones almost exactly. This became a bit of a theme as a nurse insisted on the doctor telling her how I was getting ECG results from sticking one finger on a watch that matched the results she was getting from multiple leads. The next day, when I was discharged, I recall telling the consultant that my watch showed my AF had disappeared and my heart rate was back to normal, while a bunch of his students smiled and nodded knowingly behind him.

So, I missed the Grand Prix, but the technology worked. And a small company has technology that can potentially fight the virus but Facebook is not playing ball. I suppose it was a good job Apple was big before Facebook otherwise we might never have got to hear about the Apple Watch.