StopWatch: The Preliminary Evaluation of a Smartwatch-Based System for Passive Detection of Cigarette Smoking

Nicotine Tob Res. 2019 Jan 4;21(2):257-261. doi: 10.1093/ntr/nty008.


Introduction: Recent developments in smoking cessation support systems and interventions have highlighted the requirement for unobtrusive, passive ways to measure smoking behavior. A number of systems have been developed for this that either use bespoke sensing technology, or expensive combinations of wearables and smartphones. Here, we present StopWatch, a system for passive detection of cigarette smoking that runs on a low-cost smartwatch and does not require additional sensing or a connected smartphone.

Methods: Our system uses motion data from the accelerometer and gyroscope in an Android smartwatch to detect the signature hand movements of cigarette smoking. It uses machine learning techniques to transform raw motion data into motion features, and in turn into individual drags and instances of smoking. These processes run on the smartwatch, and do not require a smartphone.

Results: We conducted preliminary validations of the system in daily smokers (n = 13) in laboratory and free-living conditions running on an Android LG G-Watch. In free-living conditions, over a 24-h period, the system achieved precision of 86% and recall of 71%.

Conclusions: StopWatch is a system for passive measurement of cigarette smoking that runs entirely on a commercially available Android smartwatch. It requires no smartphone so the cost is low, and needs no bespoke sensing equipment so participant burden is also low. Performance is currently lower than other more expensive and complex systems, though adequate for some applications. Future developments will focus on enhancing performance, validation on a range of smartwatches, and detection of electronic cigarette use.

Implications: We present a low-cost, smartwatch-based system for passive detection of cigarette smoking. It uses data from the motion sensors in the watch to identify the signature hand movements of cigarette smoking. The system will provide the detailed measures of individual smoking behavior needed for context-triggered just-in-time smoking cessation support systems, and to enable just-in-time adaptive interventions. More broadly, the system will enable researchers to obtain detailed measures of individual smoking behavior in free-living conditions that are free from the recall errors and reporting biases associated with self-report of smoking.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accelerometry / methods
  • Accelerometry / standards
  • Cigarette Smoking / psychology*
  • Cigarette Smoking / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Smartphone / standards*
  • Smokers / psychology*
  • Smoking Cessation / methods*
  • Smoking Cessation / psychology*