In small study, wearable technology helps smokers quit

By Laura Lovett
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Wearable technology could be key to reminding smokers looking to quit to put down the cigarette, according to a new study recently published by Oxford University Press’ peer review journal “Nicotine and Tobacco Research.”

The study found that Somatix’s SmokeBeat, a wearable body motion detector or BMD, correctly detected more than 80 percent of smoking episodes in a small test group. It also found that study participants using SmokeBeat technology showed a significant decline in their smoking rate, according to a statement from Somatix. 

“It means a much higher potential and efficiency for smoking treatment,” Eran Ofir, CEO of Somatix told MobiHealthNews. “Until now the only way to know [about smoking habits] was to interview the patient, which is very subjective. We provide the layer where everybody wins.”

The product uses body motion data to detect if a smoker is smoking motion by looking for a highly specific movement pattern. It's designed to differentiate between other hand-to-mouth activities like eating, drinking and shaving, according to the company. If the user is detected smoking the device sends the user a message to confirm. The product then use cognitive behavior therapy or CBT to create personalized interventions for the user. 

“We were impressed with the results,” Dr. Reuven Dar, a study author and professor at Tel Aviv University’s School of Psychological Sciences, said in a statement. “The SmokeBeat algorithm detected correctly more than 80 percent of the smoking episodes and produced very few false alarms. According to both self-report and detection of smoking episodes by the SmokeBeat system, smokers in the experimental condition showed a significant decline in their smoking rate while there was no change in the smoking rate of the control group. These results suggest that the SmokeBeat real-time automatic monitoring and notification feature may facilitate smoking reduction in smokers motivated to make life-improving changes.”

The study included 40 smokers -- nine women and 31 men. All of the participants reported smoking at least five cigarettes a day and reported wanting to reduce or quit smoking. The participants were then put into two groups; one group wore SmokeBeat and the other was assigned to a waitlist control. The study, which lasted 30 days, required participants in the experimental group to wear a smartwatch on the wrist of their “smoking hand.”

SmokeBeat also uses big data analysis to correlate the timing of smoking episodes other analytics. Users of the product are able to track when and where they are smoking and how much they are smoking. 

“Just by smokers being exposed to their smoking statistics, volume and habit, they reduced significantly their smoking volume. Just by that, even without applying CBT,” said Ofir. 

Users can also share their information with physicians, which Ofir said allows physicians to a more in-depth look into the patient’s behaviors. 

Various smoking cessation apps have been on the market in recent years, notably Pfizer’s Quitter’s Circle. Pfizer reported having success with the app, which is designed based on feedback from users on what they need to quit smoking. Over 20,000 users downloaded the app, Pfizer told MobiHealthNews in October. The company has surveyed participants and found that 57 percent of people using the program reported smoking less. 

The U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also launched an SMS smoking cessation program as part of their Text4Health program in 2011. 

In addition to SmokeBeat, Somatix, which is jointly based in New York and Raanana, Israel, is working on a second BMD product called SafeBeing, which is designed to monitor elderly users. The device will be able to give caregivers a report on everything from when the user take medications to falls the user may have. Ofir also said SmokeBeat technology could be used for other addictions and conditions, such as eating disorders.