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Wristband that measures alcohol levels wins US competition

Engadget Engadget 22/05/2016 Mariella Moon
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BACtrack is a San Francisco company known for making breathalyzers for both law enforcement and ordinary people. But it won the $200,000 grand prize at a National Institutes of Health-sponsored competition for a different kind of blood alcohol monitor altogether: a wristband much like Fitbit and other fitness trackers that can measure BAC from your sweat. The device, called "Skyn," detects alcohol using a fuel cell technology similar to that used by law enforcement. However, it's less bulky and more discreet than existing equipment.

Skyn can't exactly replace breathalyzers cops use, since it can take up to 45 minutes for alcohol to be transmitted through the skin. But authorities or researchers can use it to continuously monitor someone's BAC levels. You can even get it yourself if you want to keep an eye on your drinking habits or want data to show the doctor later. The device can warn you if you're drinking too much, especially if you're driving. Plus, it can notify a family member if it detects alcohol in your system while you're supposed to be on a quest for sobriety.

BACtrack's entry bested eight other prototypes submitted to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The NIH division launched the Wearable Alcohol Biosensor Challenge in an effort to find discreet, non-invasive wearable technologies not just for use by authorities, but also by individuals. Among the eight, seven were similar wristband-type devices, while one was a tattoo that changes colors. Since the agency judged the entries based on accuracy, we're guessing Skyn is the most precise among them all at this point in time.

According to Reuters, the company hasn't submitted Skyn to the FDA for approval yet, but BACtrack says it's releasing a limited quantity this fourth quarter. You can sign up on BACtrack's website to get a notification when the wearable is ready for pre-order.

NIH, Reuters, BACTrack (1), (2)

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