E-cigarette startup Juul Labs is planning to release Bluetooth-enabled vapes internationally, Bloomberg reports. The new tech could help lock out underage people who try to use the devices.
“We are actively evaluating new technologies and features to help keep Juul out of the hands of young people,” Juul spokesperson Victoria Davis says. The move comes as Juul faces down user lawsuits and an investigation by the Massachusetts attorney general that accuse the company of hooking young people on nicotine.
There have been hints that the company is at least considering some new tech for its products in its recent patent application, which was published in April and first spotted by Bloomberg. The application includes features that could help users keep better track of how often they’re using the device, control the strength of the dose, and change the intensity of the flavor.
The patent application also describes strategies for keeping the device locked unless the user activates it with a PIN or biometric identifier. And Bloomberg reports, based on an anonymous source, that Juul has been considering using geofences that would prevent the vapes from working at schools. But Juul wouldn’t be able to release any new tech or device modifications in the US yet because it would have to get FDA approval first.
Instead, the company plans to release the Bluetooth-connected vapes early next year “in international markets where we have launched (and per local regulations),” according to Davis. Those international markets include the UK and Israel, Davis says.
Davis couldn’t go into specifics about the new tech Juul plans to release, and she cautioned against reading too much into the patent application. “The description of a particular innovation in a patent application does not mean it is or will be implemented in any particular products or service.” But she did say in an email to The Verge that the Bluetooth-connected devices “will create the foundation that could enable a number of technological advances to help further restrict access to young people.”