Tracking your blood alcohol level is never a bad idea, but huffing, puffing and whipping out a breathlyzer isn't always an option. Looking to unearth a more inconspicuous way of keeping an eye on things, the National Health Institute's Wearable Alcohol Biosensor Challenge put the call out for non-invasive solutions to this problem, and has now selected its winner. The wrist-worn BACtrack Skyn pairs with an app to offer real-time monitoring of alcohol levels, even alerting the user's phone when they are drinking too hard.
The Wearable Alcohol Biosensor Challenge kicked off in March as way of encouraging discreet wearables that improve on the current approaches to measuring blood alcohol content (BAC). It has since assessed eight different prototypes based on accuracy, reliability, frequency of blood alcohol measurements and ability to transmit data to a wireless device.
The winning design comes not from a startup but a recognized player in the world of BAC measurement. BACtrack has developed smartphone-based breathalyzers along with other advanced BAC systems and sells its products in 20 different countries.
The BACtrack Skyn is a transdermal alcohol sensor that can take up to one reading every second. Fitted with an electrochemical sensor, the device tracks the ethanol molecules that are emitted through the skin as a product of alcohol consumption. Through a purpose-made algorithm the system is able to convert these measurements into BAC readings.
Transdermal alcohol monitors have been in use for some time, often to keep tabs on repeat DUI offenders. But with its smartphone connectivity BACtrack Skyn does seem to offer some new functionality. Through synching with the app, it could be configured to buzz the phone when a user approaches 0.04 percent BAC, or ping a family member if a supposedly sober user is breaking the rules.
With that said it is unlikely to play a role in roadside testing, as transdermal readings lag behind breathalyzer results by at least an hour as a result of how long it takes the alcohol to escape through the skin.
It could, however, improve on current transdermal monitoring methods for law enforcement, and also offer scientists a more reliable way of tracking alcohol consumption in research studies than relying on users' self-reporting or providing of blood samples. They might also be of interest to heavier drinkers looking to make some adjustments to their lifestyles.
BACtrack won US$200,000 in prize money for its troubles, with a color-changing tattoo design called BioInk gaining an honorable mention. There's no word yet on how much the device will cost, but it will become available in limited numbers towards the end of the year. You can express your interest via the source link below, and hear from BACtrack's CEO in the video underneath.
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