Two 2014 NC State graduates who don’t use tobacco think they’ve found a high-tech way to help smokers kick the habit.
Kyle Linton and Suraaj Doshi are co-founders of Nicotrax, a company launched through NC State’s Entrepreneurship Initiative. Based on Centennial Campus, the initiative helps students turn their ideas into real companies. Between 2013 and February of this year, 19 student companies, including Nicotrax, had incorporated through the program.
“Our goal is to create a smoke-free Tobacco Road,” says Linton, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business and works as a personal trainer. “Around the world, 1.1 billion people still smoke. It’s an addiction, and trying to help them break that addiction and lead healthier lives is our goal.”
The company’s smart cigarette case, which is expected to sell for between $70 and $100, automatically tracks where and when a person smokes and even whom he’s with when he lights up. The aim is to help smokers understand their habits and taper their tobacco use over time.
Let’s say Fred goes downtown and reaches for a cigarette at 9 p.m. every Friday and Saturday. With that information, Nicotrax can push a notification to Fred’s smartphone at 8:45 p.m. the next time he’s downtown on a Friday or Saturday. Smokers will also be able to set a daily limit — for example, 15 cigarettes — and receive a smartphone notification when they’re close to that limit.
“We have to be very tactical, but we can say, ‘Hey, you’re at your goal for the day,’ ” Linton says. “It’s bringing quitting to the forefront of their mind. There’s a lot of information we can gather, and a lot of information we can push.”
Studies show that 70 percent of smokers are trying to quit, but only 7 percent succeed — and only after repeated attempts, Linton says.
Doshi, his business partner, says he was “surrounded by smokers” at NC State, where he double-majored in electrical and computer engineering. Bowing to peer pressure as a freshman, Doshi tried tobacco several times but feels fortunate it didn’t become a habit.
“I see nicotine addiction like any other addiction, just way more intense,” says Doshi, who has worked on Nicotrax full time since graduating in December 2014. “If we want to be healthy, we start tracking calories and our activities, same goes to smoking. … We can get a lot better idea of our habits if we quantify it and visualize it.”
By year’s end, Nicotrax expects to offer customers a premium subscription service that includes the cigarette case as well as access to a counselor for one-on-one support.
Smokers will also be able to download free iPhone or Android apps that will allow them to track their habits manually and receive notifications. For a fee, they will be able to self-monitor and partner with a counselor.
The pair expects to launch a major fundraising campaign in early August through the online site Indiegogo. They hope to raise about $50,000 through product pre-orders, money that will help complete their launch.
If you’re a smoker who would like to help beta-test the Nicotrax system, visit nicotrax.com.
–Carole Tanzer Miller