Researchers from Northwestern University have developed a smart necklace to help smokers kick the habit.

The pendant, called SmokeMon, tracks heat signatures from lit cigarettes as captured by thermal sensors, revealing how much smokers inhale and the time between drags, according to its developers who call that data “smoking topography.”

“This goes way beyond how many cigarettes a person smokes per day,” said senior investigator Nabil Alshurafa, associate professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “We can detect when the cigarette is being lit, when the person holds it to their mouth and takes a puff, how much they inhale, how much time between puffs and how long they have the cigarette in their mouth.”

According to the Northwestern team, smoking topography is important because it enables researchers to measure and assess harmful carbon monoxide exposure among smokers, to better understand the relationship between chemical exposure and tobacco-related diseases — such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung disease, diabetes, COPD, emphysema and chronic bronchitis — and to assist people in their quest to quit smoking by improving the understanding of how smoking topography is associated with relapse.

The Northwestern team suggests that the data captured by the pendant could potentially be used to make predictions about the likelihood of a former smoker experiencing a full smoking relapse versus a slip. Such data could potentially trigger an intervention from a health coach, for instance, who could be prompted to send an encouraging text or other communication, thereby attempting to prevent a full-on return to smoking.

An article detailing the pendant, “SmokeMon: Unobtrusive Extraction of Smoking Topography Using Wearable Energy-Efficient Thermal,” appears in the journal Proceedings of the ACM on Interactive Mobile Wearable and Ubiquitous Technologies.

To contact the author of this article, email