In order to help someone quit smoking, it’s important to know how much they smoke in the first place, and to what degree they may periodically falter. An experimental new smoking-tracking necklace is designed to help in both regards.
Currently in development at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, the pendant-shaped monitoring device is known as the SmokeMon.
It incorporates thermal sensors which continuously track the heat of a lit cigarette as it travels to and from the user’s mouth.
Utilizing that data, accompanying machine-learning-based software is able to establish each individual user’s “smoking topography” – this includes the amount of time each smoking session lasts, along with the timing, number, duration and volume of puffs, plus the intervals between puffs.
Armed with that information, a health coach would be better able to formulate a realistic, doable plan for weaning that particular smoker off cigarettes. Additionally, if the smoker were to falter in their attempt to quit the habit – as detected by the SmokeMon – the coach could determine if those extra smoked cigarettes constituted a simple slip or a full relapse.
“For many people who attempt to quit smoking, a slip is one or two cigarettes or even a single puff. But a slip is not the same as a relapse (going back to smoking regularly),” says the lead scientist, Assoc. Prof. Nabil Alshurafa. “A person can learn from slips, by gaining awareness that they did not fail, they just had a temporary setback. To avoid a relapse, we can then begin to shift their focus on how we handle their triggers and deal with cravings.”
And while some folks may feel that wearing such a device would be a bit Big Brother-ish, it would definitely be less intrusive than previous systems which have used wearable cameras to determine people’s smoking topographies. The SmokeMon only tracks and records heat, not images.
Other systems have instead utilized motion-tracking sensors that get attached to each cigarette, although such setups tend to alter the manner in which a person smokes, providing an inaccurate profile. The use of smartwatches to track smoking-related arm movements has also been explored, but similar hand-to-mouth motions (such as those made when eating) were often confused with such movements.
SmokeMon has so far been successfully tested on a group of 19 participants, who wore the device during a total of 115 smoking sessions in both controlled and real-world scenarios. It has also been assessed by a panel of 18 tobacco-treatment specialists, who reportedly felt that the technology could be very helpful.
A paper on the research was recently published in the journal Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive Mobile Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies.