“I’m at a 0.07. What are you?”
With new personal alcohol monitoring devices being developed, might this be a common conversation on a Friday night?
Technology that measures alcohol through the skin has long been used by law enforcement to supervise repeat drunk drivers. But several up and coming technologies could make this kind of alcohol monitoring the next big trend in personal activity tracking—much like other recreational devices that monitor bio-data like steps, calories, and sleep.
Alcohol-Sensing Skin Patches
A team of engineers at the Center for Wearable Sensors at the University of California, San Diego, recently prototyped a removable, electronic “tattoo” that detects alcohol. The inch-long patch includes a drug that causes the wearer’s skin to sweat, and electrodes that test the sweat for alcohol. The single-use device sends test results via Bluetooth to a smartphone app so that wearers can see their level of intoxication.
A New Mexico company has taken a more low-tech approach to the idea of a sweat-reading patch. The ONUS Blue initially looks like a small, clear bit of tape but turns blue when it detects alcohol through the skin. The color lets people know the wearer is no longer able to act as a designated driver. The company plans to work with bars and restaurants to design customized or logoed versions that they can hand out to guests.
A Fitness Band for Drinking
A California company hopes their fitness-style monitor could show up on retail shelves soon to help wearers track their alcohol consumption during a night out. The wrist-worn monitor was part of a recent challenge from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) to create an alcohol monitoring option for personal use. It measures blood alcohol levels through the skin by testing insensible perspiration and displays the results on a smartphone app.
The patches and bracelet have a number of potential applications, including providing doctors with information on a patient’s drinking habits, supporting personal health goals, or helping drivers decide if it’s safe to get behind the wheel.
These monitors seem to be tapping into Americans’ interest in tracking every stride, bite, and heartbeat. But it remains to be seen whether the general public will really buy into the idea of personal alcohol monitoring, or if these devices will simply remain interesting research projects.
What do you think—would you monitor your drinking?