Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Ambulatory Smoking Habits Investigation based on Physiology and Context (ASSIST) using wearable sensors and mobile phones: protocol for an observational study
  1. Donghui Zhai1,2,
  2. Giuseppina Schiavone3,
  3. Ilse Van Diest4,
  4. Elske Vrieze5,
  5. Walter DeRaedt1,
  6. Chris Van Hoof1,2
  1. 1 Connected Health Solution Group, IMEC, Leuven, Belgium
  2. 2 Department of Electrical Engineering (ESAT), KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  3. 3 Connected Health Solution Group, Holst Centre, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
  4. 4 Health Psychology, Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  5. 5 Department of Neurosciences, Psychiatry Research Group, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium
  1. Correspondence to Donghui Zhai; donghui.zhai{at}


Introduction Smoking prevalence continues to be high over the world and smoking-induced diseases impose a heavy burden on the medical care system. As believed by many researchers, a promising way to promote healthcare and well-being at low cost for the large vulnerable smoking population is through eHealth solutions by providing self-help information about smoking cessation. But in the absence of first-hand knowledge about smoking habits in daily life settings, systems built on these methods often fail to deliver proactive and tailored interventions for different users and situations over time, thus resulting in low efficacy. To fill the gap, an observational study has been developed on the theme of objective and non-biased monitoring of smoking habits in a longitudinal and ambulatory mode. This paper presents the study protocol. The primary objective of the study is to reveal the contextual and physiological pattern of different smoking behaviours using wearable sensors and mobile phones. The secondary objectives are to (1) analyse cue factors and contextual situations of smoking events; (2) describe smoking types with regard to users’ characteristics and (3) compare smoking types between and within subjects.

Methods and analyses This is an observational study aimed at reaching 100 participants. Inclusion criteria are adults aged between 18 and 65 years, current smoker and office worker. The primary outcome is a collection of a diverse and inclusive data set representing the daily smoking habits of the general smoking population from similar social context. Data analysation will revolve around our primary and secondary objectives. First, linear regression and linear mixed model will be used to estimate whether a factor or pattern have consistent (p value<0.05) correlation with smoking. Furthermore, multivariate multilevel analysis will be used to examine the influence of smokers’ characteristics (sex, age, education, socioeconomic status, nicotine dependence, attitudes towards smoking, quit attempts, etc), contextual factors, and physical and emotional statuses on their smoking habits. Most recent machine learning techniques will also be explored to combine heterogeneous data for classification of smoking events and prediction of craving.

Ethics and dissemination The study was designed together by an interdisciplinary group of researchers, including psychologist, psychiatrist, engineer and user involvement coordinator. The protocol was reviewed and approved by the ethical review board of UZ Leuven on 18 April 2016, with an approval number S60078. The study will allow us to characterise the types of smokers and triggering events. These findings will be disseminated through peer-reviewed articles.

  • epidemiology
  • biotechnology and bioinformatics
  • protocols and guidelines
  • public health
  • rehabilitation medicine
  • substance misuse

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:

View Full Text

Statistics from


  • Contributors DZ: conception and design of the study, drafting of the protocol, design of the data collection and management system, development of the analysis plan and drafting of the manuscript. IVD and EV: revision of the study questionnaire and protocol. GS: conception of the analysis plan and revision of the manuscript. WD and CVH: conception and design of the study, and revision of the protocol. All the authors gave final approval of the version to be published.

  • Funding The study is sponsored by an investigator-initiated grant from imec, a not-for-profit research institution. Imec has provided free Chillband and chest patch devices for study purposes. DZ is supported by a doctoral scholarship from KU Leuven of Belgium (000000088587).

  • Disclaimer The funding sources had no role in study design; collection, analysis or interpretation of data; writing of the report; or the decision to submit the article for publication. Researchers were independent of the funders and sponsors of the study.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Obtained.

  • Ethics approval Approval was obtained from the hospital ethical review board of UZ Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.