Smartphone App to Aid Smoking Cessation

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Smartphone applications in the present times are the popular source of information on market intelligence. In the last decade, these gadgets have been revolutionizing the consumer world by replacing our wallets and bringing services such as cabs, restaurants, shops, IoT based smart homes at our doorsteps. These are also contributing to our fitness regime. But smartphones can give a lot more insights, they can tell what we are doing at the moment, our habits and the associated health hazards. This is what researchers at IIT KGP have confirmed through their latest innovation.

A research team led by Prof. Ram Babu Roy at IIT KGP’s Rajendra Mishra School of Engineering Entrepreneurship (RMSoEE), has developed a prototype of sensor-based activity tracking kit which can monitor the activities in daily living. Further, a Smartphone-based application is under development which will analyze the tracking kit data and send alerts for an unhealthy lifestyle and suitable recommendation. The innovation is a sensor-based technology for automated recognition of addictive and depressive behaviour.

While India is reaching a critical threshold for killer diseases like cancer and depression, there is an emerging need for a shift from sick care to preventive care. This issue can be addressed at a faster rate through e-healthcare considering the inadequate availability of professional caregivers and medical practitioners.

“The scenario led us to explore the most commonly used gadget and develop the much-required technology which can be used for providing interventions in near real-time via mobile app to promote cessation from addictive habits,” remarked Saurabh Singh Thakur, a research scholar at IIT KGP RMSoEE.

The technology is capable of producing a daily activity chart based on body movements especially of the hands and predict daily functions such as eating or drinking water or behavioural tendencies such as smoking or consumption of alcohol. The application can also monitor call and message logs and internet usage on the smartphone and alert the user or the caregiver regarding cell phone usage. Prolonged usage data would indicate poor sleeping habit thus predicting possible health hazards.

“We did a pilot study over a period of time capturing data on activities of daily living with the help of a mobile app developed for android phones. The different activities captured are a marker of various physiological and psychological health. The data collected was dependent on the time of the day when it was captured thus demarcating the normal and abnormal activities. Further, data analysis is being carried out to identify various behavioral activities and patterns to do behavioural profiling of individuals. This could lead to enabling of personalized e-healthcare services through a smartphone,” said Prof. Ram Babu Roy, who is leading this innovation at IIT KGP RMSoEE.

The activity tracking kit has been developed using a 6-axis inertial sensor along with a heart rate sensor which could be worn on the wrist. A pilot study was conducted with four participants. Their hand movement pattern was recorded for around 5 minutes for smoking and non-smoking intervals each, using this kit. Preliminary analysis of the data showed that there exists a periodicity in the data during the smoking episode. During the non-smoking interval, the sensor signals are random and do not exhibit such periodicity.

Further data collection with a greater number of participants in different environments, data pre-processing, analysis, training, model generation, and testing is under progress. The research team collected GPS data as well for locational information and physical movement. There is a correlation between physical activities during the day and psychological health. Thus, such data analysis would further help in strengthening the mental health and wellness of the user.

The need of such a technology can be more emphasized at the wake of the reports by Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Mental Health Survey (NMHS). While according to ICMR, new cancer cases or its incidence in India are estimated to grow by 25% by 2020, NMHS 2015-16 reports that every sixth person in India needs mental health intervention of some sort.

The prototype developed at IIT KGP is initially focused on smoking habits. However, the research encompasses the scope of predicting depressive behavior as well. The team has published several peer-reviewed papers in international journal and conferences of repute. They are working towards filing a patent for further commercialization of the product.

“At the Rajendra Mishra School of Engineering Entrepreneurship, we encourage entrepreneurial minds of the engineering students. It is the first school of its kind in India and we focus on incubating innovations into start-ups. Considering the field reports and further test results and preferred career choices of the innovators, such innovations are quite capable of creating new markets,” affirmed Prof. Partha Pratim Das, Head, RMSoEE, IIT KGP.

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