Academic Fellowship: Q Sense: A context aware smartphone sensing app for smoking cessation

First published: 29 March 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019


Dr Felix Naughton

Senior Research Associate, Behavioural Science Group, University of Cambridge

I am a health psychologist and Senior Research Associate based within the Behavioural Science Group at the University of Cambridge. My primary research interest is in investigating how new technologies, particularly mobile phones, can support smoking-related behaviour change. I currently hold an SSA fellowship that enables me, with colleagues and collaborators, to investigate the potential of mobile phone-based smoking cessation interventions to address important gaps in NHS smoking cessation support. This work mainly focuses on impact and implementation evaluations of a tailored text message cessation support system for pregnant smokers (MiQuit), an effectiveness evaluation of a tailored text message cessation support system for use alongside routine NHS smoking cessation support (iQuit in Practice), the feasibility and acceptability of a context aware smartphone sensing app for smoking cessation (Q Sense) and the development of a mobile phone based Nicotine Replacement Therapy adherence support system for pregnant smokers.

Context aware smartphone apps for behaviour change have become a reality due to a rapidly growing smartphone market and the presence of sensors on smartphones as standard. In the field of smoking behaviour, such apps have the potential to address a major gap in treatment: addressing cues from an individual smoker’s environment which bring about cravings to smoke. Such instances are estimated to account for almost half of all smoking lapses. This talk will describe a novel smoking cessation sensing app (Q Sense). Q Sense builds on two theory-guided tailored SMS text message support systems for smoking cessation (MiQuit and iQuit) and combines their existing tailored message libraries with a smartphone sensing system. A core feature of the app is the delivery of real time behavioural support triggered by a smoker’s proximity to a pre-identified high risk location for a cue-induced craving episode, using location sensors in their smartphone and geofencing. The findings from a mixed methods feasibility study (funded by the Medical Research Council and supported by the SSA) will be drawn on to provide insight into smokers’ usage (quantitative) and experiences (qualitative) of the Q Sense app. This study aimed to assess the feasibility of user-initiated data recording, accuracy of the app’s identification of high risk situations (geofences), experiences of geofence triggered support delivery and views on technological and data privacy issues.


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Dr Felix Naughton