December 7, 2023

NIOSH Challenge Spurs Solutions to Help Verify Authenticity of FFRs

The winning solution from NIOSH’s Counterfeit N95 Challenge is a phone app and website that would help people verify the authenticity of filtering facepiece respirators (FFRs), the agency announced last week. The crowdsourcing competition, which was hosted by the online platform HeroX, was intended to address the influx of fake N95 FFRs into the marketplace, a problem exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to reducing the number of counterfeit N95 FFRs on the market, NIOSH hoped the challenge would identify ways to improve the confidence of users who purchase respiratory protection products.

The team Essayon Engineering developed the “N95 FFR Validation App and Website,” which uses a validation database with a private label lookup function and one-way communication with the NIOSH certified equipment list to help users determine whether respirators are authentic. The app portion of the solution allows users to compare pictures from respirator manufacturers’ websites against the respirators they’re assessing.

Three other teams received honorable mentions for the solutions they developed: a system that allows users to check if their respirators are authentic using a QR code incorporated into product packaging; a cloud-based platform that initiates media outreach to communities affected by a respiratory health threat and provides information about how to authenticate NIOSH-approved respirators; and a registry that allows manufacturers to upload and share provenance data across the supply chain to help ensure respirators’ compliance and authenticity.

Further details about the Counterfeit N95 Challenge can be found in NIOSH’s news update.

Related: NIOSH previously partnered with HeroX on a competition designed to identify solutions for overcoming poor fit in workers’ protective clothing. First prize in that challenge was awarded to a submission of a self-conforming gown that adapts to different body types.