About a year ago I was reading an article on the future of electronic cigarettes in which the author talked about their rapid evolution and how we would soon be using smart e-cigarettes that could connect to the Internet, play music or record audio. I remember thinking it might be possible one day, but not very soon. It turns out he was right on the money, as we already have an e-cigarette that can connect to the web and post tweets about your usage of the device.
It doesn’t yet have an official name, but its Twitter user-name is “TweetingCiggy” so I guess that’s how I’ll be referring to it from now on. It was created by the guys at R/GA, a New-York-based creative agency, as a tracking device that can help e-cigarette users with their goals of quitting smoking. The smart e-cig tracks usage and posts tweets about how many tobacco cigarettes the user has avoided, how much money they’ve saved and how many minutes/hours/days of life they’ve gained by giving up tobacco.
The story of the TweetingCiggy began in New York’s Tir Na Nog bar, where Michael “Pickles” Piccuirro, R/GA’s product and technology director first saw one of his coworkers using an electronic cigarette and asked him about it. Shortly after, he read about its increasing popularity in the New York Times and instructed his prototype studio to connect one to the Internet. It sounds like a pretty tough task, considering we’re talking about a device made up of a battery and a cartomizer, but thanks to the wonders of modern technology, the guys in charge of the project managed to complete the task using a low-tech approach. They didn’t make any modifications to the e-cigarette itself. Instead, they built a custom PCC (portable charging case) fitted with an easy-to-program Arduino microprocessor and a Bluetooth shield and connected it to the button of the e-cig battery with conductive tape. Then they used open source software to create an iPhone app and program the device to track the number of times the button on the e-cigarette gets pressed by the user and send the data to the app via Bluetooth. The app converts the information into various stats, like number of cigarettes avoided, financial savings or gained life time and posts micro-messages on the @TwittingCiggy Twitter account.
An electronic cigarette that tracks people’s progress during their struggle to quit smoking might be a very useful tool, and R/GA’s group director Marc Maleh says the next step would be to partner up with an electronic cigarette company and start working on ways of building connectivity in the e-cig itself. The potential of their invention is huge, and if some big e-cigarette companies get wind of it, we might all be puffing on online vaporizers a lot sooner than we thought.