Queen’s University students have a snappy idea to break your bad habits

4 Aug 2016

Niall McMahon (front row, left) and his fellow SnapIt co-founders

TechWatch’s Emily McDaid talks to the student entrepreneurs behind a silicon wearable that can snap you out of bad behaviour.

Any doctor will tell you that the greatest impact you can have on your personal health is through breaking bad habits – stop overeating, smoking or drinking too much.

One habit-busting innovation (if it can be called that) is the rubber band technique. You wear a rubber band around your wrist, and ‘snap’ yourself whenever you feel cravings.

Future Human

A group of young student entrepreneurs has taken this idea much further and created an innovative business in its own right – SnapIt.

Inspirefest 2017

The concept behind SnapIt is so simple, it’s ingenious.

SnapIt is a silicon band that you use to snap yourself whenever you have a bad craving. The difference? SnapIt has a chip inside which records all of your snaps, connecting (via Bluetooth) with a phone app that reports back your behaviour.

One of the five co-founders, Niall McMahon, said: “It’s about tracking progress towards a goal. If you are tracking progress, it improves your motivation. If you can see when you’re vulnerable, you can change your behaviour to help aid you in breaking the habit. This works for smoking, but also for things like anxiety, negative thoughts or cracking knuckles.”

SnapIt health wearable

Designs for SnapIt’s wearable band in a variety of colours

McMahon tells me that SnapIT can produce the wearables for under £7 each, and they’ll eventually sell them at a retail price of £30 to £40.

The chip sits under the face of the band, while a thread goes through the strap, detecting the motion of the snap.

“Our prototype will be one clean piece of silicon, with all the tech embedded inside,” said McMahon.

Going into business

The SnapIt team are open to receiving feedback from inventors who’ve gone before them – and this openness is often an indicator of future success. “We met with a sales team at Boots who gave us a thoughtful consultation on the product, the pricing and the USPs. It was invaluable.”

Four of the team members are studying software and electronics systems engineering at Queen’s University Belfast. Their course, devised by lecturers Dr Karen Rafferty and Dr Neil Buchanan, was instrumental in getting the entrepreneurial vibes flowing.

SnapIt came out of an industrial project module, where students had to come up with a technical invention and a business plan. “The idea needed to be achievable but also complex enough to give us a technical challenge. It also needed to be unique. We whittled a list of around 150 ideas down to this one,” McMahon explained.

What’s next for SnapIt?

A young start-up team with a lot of promise, SnapIt is currently in the running for the Student category of Connect’s Invent competition.

“We’ve made it onto the ESpark accelerator programme and have six free months of office space. We are also in the running for the Santander University Entrepreneurship Award. We’ll launch on Kickstarter next year and we hope to make this our full-time job after graduation, ” said McMahon.

By Emily McDaid, editor, TechWatch

A version of this article originally appeared on TechWatch

TechWatch by Catalyst covered tech developments in Northern Ireland