Philip Morris, one of the world's larger tobacco concerns, is attempting to patent a connected e-cigarette.
The company's application outlines a device that appears very similar to the e-cigarettes available today. But the invention described takes the idea further by suggesting that its e-cig would include a puff-detecting sensor, and that its USB connection could do more than just provide power to the device's batteries.
As the application explains, hooking up an e-cig to a PC could mean:
“ … information may be uploaded from the device to the PC. For example, for acquiring smoking behaviour information during clinical trials, the user can simply connect the device to the PC to upload data.”
FireWire is suggested as one connection method, along with USB and the possibility of wireless connections.
There's also a suggestion that “for assistance with managing smoking behaviour, the user could upload smoking behaviour information, to track the data and note improvements.”
The patent also imagines pay-per-puff and other interactions with a web service of some sort, as described below:
“Other possible capabilities include, but are not limited to: Pay-as-you-smoke functionality. 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.”
If that sounds a bit sinister, worry not, as Philip Morris is also considering therapeutic applications to help you quit smoking.
“The Internet application hosted on the PC could be an approved support group Internet site for assistance with smoking cessation,” the patent says, “The Internet application could offer a controlled amount of smoking time whilst monitoring the smoking behaviour.”
Not everything in the application is altruistic: there's also a suggestion the e-cig could “be pre-loaded with credit which could be used to buy items, such as smoking articles, from the Internet application.”
There's also contemplation of an app advising owners of the best consumables to use, or even software to “automatically pre-order additional smoking articles when required.” In other words, turning an e-cig into a sensor that sends you more nicotine-laden consumables well before you finish your current batch.
Hang on? Didn't the application also mention giving up the gaspers? Perhaps that bit was just a smokescreen. ®