Skip to main content

Wearing this smart necklace could help you stop smoking forever

Whether you believe in the Big Tobacco theories or not, cigarette smoking has a very tangible impact on not just the personal health of people, but also the places they live in — costing the U.S. an astounding $600 billion in healthcare spending and loss of productivity due to illness and premature death, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The health agency also says, “cigarette smoking remains the leading cause of preventable disease, disability, and death in the United States,” adding that a healthy number of smokers want to quit the harmful habit.

The latter is not always easy, especially without constant monitoring and supervision backed by proper data. Experts at Northwestern University aim to solve all the problems in one go with a wearable sensor that looks like a necklace. Not only does it detect when you start smoking, but will also collect a ton of other quantifiable data that can help medical experts offer better care and cut down on the chances of a relapse.

SmokeMon smoking detection sensor.
Northwestern University

Called SmokeMon, the device looks like a necklace and can “capture spatial, temporal, and thermal information around the wearer and cigarette all day to unobtrusively and passively detect smoking events.” The heat-sensing wearable device comes fitted with a low-power, low-resolution thermal sensor that is not only capable of detecting smoke from a cigarette but can also collect more information like how long each puff lasts, how long the cigarette stays in the mouth, when the cigarette is lit, the volume of smoke inhaled, the duration between each puff, and more.

The research team refers to these details as smoking topography. This data is of critical importance because it can help minimize the chances of a relapse. “This information can be used to predict when a person will relapse and when to intervene with a phone call from a health coach,” notes the press release. As for the method of intervention, it can be anything from a short message to a timely video call from a health coach, after they’ve seen the smoking data and found it alarming.

“Now we can begin to test the effectiveness of this device in improving the success rate of smoking cessation programs by preventing relapse in smokers who are planning to quit,” says research lead Nabil Alshurafa, Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine (Behavioral Medicine) at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “We want to catch them before they completely fall off the wagon.”

Breakdown of SmokeMon
Northwestern University

SmokeMon comes equipped with a 500mAh battery that can last for 19 hours on a single charge, which means it would easily last a full day of tracking. It is one of the first devices of its kind that use thermal imagery to identify smoking episodes without causing any privacy concerns that come with a regular RGB camera sensor embedded in a sensor for activity tracking. Plus, the chances of false positives are low, since it does not rely on hand or body movements. For example, wrist-worn sensors often mistake an activity like lifting the hands to eat or drink with bringing a cigarette to your lips.

The team is working on chest sensors that would be capable of measuring respiration rate and air intake volume. When placed in a magnetic pad with SmokeMon and attached to a person’s chest, the whole assembly will offer even deeper insights into smoking patterns. The current iteration of SmokeMon suffers from a low field-of-view, but the team notes in the research paper that it could very well be doubled by adding another sensor unit to the assembly.

The team is also working on further improvements that would allow the wearable to detect electronic cigarettes, bongs, and more types of smoking substances than just tobacco. Notably, the data-processing platform powering SmokeMon has been open-sourced, allowing the research community to further refine the engineering behind the device and enhance its capabilities.

The research has been published in Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive, Mobile, Wearable, and Ubiquitous Technologies, while the open-source data behind SmokeMon algorithms is available on GitHub.

Editors' Recommendations

Nadeem Sarwar
Nadeem is a tech journalist who started reading about cool smartphone tech out of curiosity and soon started writing…
Does the OnePlus 12 have a headphone jack?
OnePlus 12 in green and white.

OnePlus has been a popular choice for people seeking high-quality, affordable smartphones. With the launch of its latest offering, the OnePlus 12, it's time for OnePlus fans to pay close attention. While the device has only been launched in China so far, fans across the globe are eagerly waiting for its release in their respective countries.

For those who rely on wired headphones or earbuds, the presence of a headphone jack is a crucial factor in their decision to purchase a new device. While some manufacturers have done away with the jack, others have opted for alternative solutions like USB-C or wireless options.

Read more
2023 was the best year for Google Pixel devices yet
A person holding the Google Pixel 8.

Almost all of Google’s Pixel device releases in 2023 have been winners, making this the best year for Pixel yet.

Don’t believe me? It's true! Here’s what Google has done with its mobile hardware and software over the past months that allows me to make such a bold claim.
This isn't about the Pixel 7 series

Read more
Want to make a movie on your iPhone? Experts told me their secrets
Someone using the camera app on the iPhone 15 Pro Max.

“The phone in your pocket is a time machine. Take it out, point the camera, and shoot important moments in your life. It’s your very own film,” says Victoria Mapplebeck, a Department of Media Arts professor at the Royal Holloway University of London. She knows a thing (or two) about making films with a smartphone.

Victoria won the BAFTA honors in the Short Form Programme category in 2019 for her film Missed Call. It was shot on an iPhone X, one of the first films to showcase the might of smartphone filmmaking.

Read more