The National Institutes of Health (NIH) have allocated over $400,000 in grants in part to develop a smoke-detecting “wearable sensor system integrated into conventional underwear.”

The current prototype developed by the University of Alabama apparently fits like a vest on the upper body. 

Project leader Dr. Edward Sazonov told CNS News that the goal is to “eliminate the need for self-report from people about how much they smoke, when they smoke, how many puffs they take from the cigarette.”

The project’s description at the National Institute of Health website reads:

Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States. Smoking produces over 440,000 deaths each year in this country and generates an estimated $167 billion in annual health-related economic losses. Available methods of smoking assessment (e.g., self-report, portable puff-topography instruments) do not permit the collection of accurate, non-reactive measures of smoking behavior…

Specific Aim 1: Develop a wearable sensor system comprised of a breathing sensor integrated into conventional underwear and a hand gesture sensor integrated into a hand bracelet. Specific Aim 2: Collect sensor data from individuals wearing the instrumented system and performing everyday activities (including smoking) in laboratory conditions. Specific Aim 3: Develop pattern recognition methods to recognize individual puffs and smoke inhalation. Specific Aim 4: Evaluate the utility and sensitivity of the wearable sensor PACT system and pattern recognition method in people smoking in the natural environment. This set of Specific Aims will validate lead to creation of a unique wearable device capable of objective characterization of smoking behavior. [Emphasis added]

National Institutes of Health Spend Over $400,000 in Study to Develop Smoke Detecting Underwear

(Photo: University of Alabama)

CNS News continues with more information on the project:

The project began in March 2010, with the University receiving $187,368 from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.  That grant was followed by an additional $215,353 in 2011, though the project will not end until August of this year.

The grants have yielded two studies. In one of them, people were brought into a lab and fitted with the sensors, which tracked normal activities such as eating and physical activity. The goal was to see if the monitor would also detect cigarette smoking, differentiating it immediately from other activities.  Sazonov said this study was successful.

A second study had people wearing the PACT for a full day. Those results are still being analyzed.

“The results can be used in support of cessation because potentially in the future we should be able to detect smoking in real time,” Sazonov said.

When asked if he will be applying for more grants in the future when the current funding ends this summer, Sazonov said, “We definitely want to continue with this research, yes.”  [Emphasis added]

(H/T: CNS News)

[Front page image courtesy of Shutterstock/Nata-Lia]