Can Quitbit’s smart lighter help you drop the habit?


A startup called Quitbit is launching a crowdfunding campaign today for a $150 cigarette lighter — early purchasers can get one for $70 — that can count how many times you’ve used it today, and relay the data to your smartphone. Quitbit’s app lets you set goals for how many cigarettes you’d like to allow yourself, and share how you’re doing with a group of friends on Facebook or Twitter. Quitbit hopes to start shipping its product by the end of this year.

A display on the face of the Quitbit lighter tells you how long it has been since your last smoke, and how many cigarettes you’ve lit today. Since the device uses an electric coil similar to a car lighter, you can also set it to stop working after a certain number of cigarettes each day, or to not operate at specific times. (Forcing you to bum a light from someone else after dinner, perhaps?) Quitbit uses Bluetooth LE wireless to communicate with an iPhone; an app on the phone can show you how well you’re doing at cutting back, or the time of day you tend to reach for a cigarette. (An early version of the Quitbit app is already in the iTunes Store.)

Co-founders Ata Ghofrani and Kuji Nakano met at Brown University, where both were pursuing Master’s degrees. “I was trying to cut back my smoking but wasn’t sure how many I smoked a day,” Ghofrani says, “so we started experimenting with different ways to track our smoking. What we found was a lighter was the most seamless way to collect accurate data.” Ghofrani says he quit smoking earlier this year during a beta test of Quitbit, “while Kuji still smokes so we can have one smoker while we go through product development.” The company has raised about $150,000 in angel investment so far, and Ghofrani says Quitbit is hunting for office space in Boston, likely at a co-working center.

Quitbit participated in the Betaspring accelerator program last fall in Providence, and then in the hardware-only Haxlr8r program in Shenzhen, China earlier this year. Instead of continuing to raise money from angels, Quitbit is hoping to raise $50,000 from its crowdfunding campaign. “We felt it was better to go the crowdfunding route to build a community behind the product and close out the remaining funding we needed to go through manufacturing,” Ghofrani says.

Nakano and Fred Roeber, Quibit’s lead software engineer, both previously worked for Zeo, a now-defunct Newton company that made a headband that monitored the quality of your sleep. (Zeo shut down in late 2012.)

I’d point out another use for the Quitbit lighter: now that medical marijuana has been legalized in Massachusetts and other states, perhaps it could also be used to track whether you’ve hit your recommended daily dose…

Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
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