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23rd June 2014, 10:20am
Could award-winning smartphone app help smokers kick the habit?
The Relieve packaging design A smartphone app which helps smokers wean themselves off nicotine by gradually reducing the strength of their e-cigarette has won a national competition funded by Vodafone UK to find the most innovative new uses of mobile technology.

The system, called Relieve, was devised by a team of students from the University of Lincoln, UK, and comes at a time when health experts are debating whether e-cigarettes represent a risk or an opportunity to reduce the harm caused by smoking.

Relieve, which has been developed to proof-of-concept stage, hinges on a smartphone app which develops a personalised quit smoking programme for e-cigarette users, based on their daily usage. The app, which would be available to iPhone and Android users, communicates directly with a specially-engineered e-cigarette via a smartphone's Bluetooth.

The amount of nicotine released by the e-cigarette is gradually reduced over time. As the amount of vapour inhaled remains the same, the smoker is unaware of the subtle reduction.

The concept has now won first prize in a national technology competition run by telecoms giant Vodafone.

The Vodafone 24 Hour Challenge set out to uncover some of the most innovative students in the UK by inviting small teams of students to generate product ideas in just one day.

Bryan Hill, Technology Innovation Manager at Vodafone UK said: “We were particularly impressed with the originality, depth of research and presentation of the concept. It met the brief perfectly and had that intangible “wow factor” as well. It was a great piece of work and won against some very stiff competition.”

Robert Meehan, a final year student on the BA(Hons) Advertising and Marketing programme at the University of Lincoln, was part of the successful Lincoln team. He said: “It’s amazing to have won the competition, especially one that’s run by such a recognisable brand.
“It's still in the concept stage at the moment, but we have designed it to the point where if we wanted to build a prototype, we could make that happen. Once we had come up with it, it was one of those ideas that just made sense and you wonder why it doesn't already exist.
“Relieve is a revolutionary new way to quit smoking, and we think it would be a major help to people. We would be very excited to see it get put into production.”

The team was comprised of five students from different degree disciplines, each with a specific role. Robert developed the initial concept and the product logos, Mechanical Engineering undergraduate Alex Pell designed  the e-cigarette, while Media Production student Sascha Tucker devised the app and a short documentary to explain how the system works. Product Design students Richard Kennedy and Jack Merritt designed the product casing and packaging.

Users get a progress reports on how their quitting is going, as well as daily facts about how their body is beginning to recover, and financial data on how much money the Relieve system has saved them. The app also allows them to share how they are doing over social media.

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