Cigarettes might have one of the easiest-to-understand interfaces in the world.
Step one: Light it.
Step two: Inhale from the side that isn’t on fire.
A new patent from Philip Morris hints at how that basic interface could get a good deal more complicated when you add a computer. The patent, published earlier this week, proposes an e-cigarette that could connect to a computer or phone via wifi or USB.
In other words, an Internet-enabled—a smart—e-cig.
Once smartened-up, the Internet-connected pipe can do many things. Not-so-usefully, it could let users initiate a puff from the computer—in case, I suppose, old-fashioned inhaling gets too hard. Slightly-more-usefully, it could automatically send doctors information about how much tobacco was burned and for how long. That feature could be especially handy if the cigarette’s user is participating in a clinical trial, or trying—with someone or something else’s help—to stop smoking.
Many of the e-cig’s Internet-enabled features are described as helping would-be quitters. In the patent’s ninth column, its authors propose one feature that might help them understand smoking’s costs: pay-as-you-puff. Smokers, it says, might want to charge themselves a little bit of money every time they take a hit:
For example, the user buys daily or weekly or monthly smoking time from the Internet application supported on the PC, or the user obtains smoking time credits based on cigarettes and other smoking articles bought via the Internet application.
The authors also envision the cigarette giving users access to an “approved support group Internet site for assistance with smoking cessation,” which could then—through the web connection—“offer a controlled amount of smoking time whilst monitoring the smoking behavior.”