There are many reasons to track blood alcohol content, including your own. The utility is so great the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Wearable Biosensor Challenge offered a $200,000 prize for the best design. And of eight entries, the BACtrack Skyn wristband prototype won the award, according to Reuters. The Skyn, which has yet to be submitted to the FDA for marketing approval, measures ethanol in your sweat and converts the data into a blood alcohol reading.
You may remember the BACtrack for its Breathalyzer, a mobile device that works with a smartphone. You blow into the Breathalyzer for 3 to 10 seconds and it senses the alcohol in your breath. You can send a selfie via the application showing it’s really you blowing into the device and not some dedicated driver (or devoted friend) doing double duty. Well, the Skyn does the same thing but you wear it on your wrist. And rather than measure booze on your breath, it reads your sweat.
There are some advantages to using the Skyn (once it’s actually available) over the Breathalyzer. For one thing, it can be set to monitor continuously, from every second to every 10 seconds, giving you an ongoing reading of your blood alcohol. Also, if you’d rather not have everyone in the bar or at the party know that you’re monitoring your alcohol intake, and perhaps sending the data to family members or others who want or need to know, the wristband is unobtrusive. If anyone asks what it is, and you don’t want them to know, tell them it’s measuring your aura or something.
Another Skyn advantage is that continuous monitoring can give you or your physician information over time. Continuous data has greater usefulness than the single-point-in-time measurement you get from blood tests or breath tests. After data is transferred via low power Bluetooth to a smartphone, it’s saved in sessions.
If you think that two glasses of wine at dinner don’t really affect you, try it a few times wearing a Skyn and then look back to see what’s really going on. Also, if you are concerned about your drinking and seeing someone about it, rather than just reporting on yourself verbally, which everyone knows is pretty much fantasy, you could send a report from the smartphone app that displays the summary information from each session.
However, you can’t use the Skyn for instant ‘How-hammered-am-I?’ tests. It takes about 45 minutes for the alcohol to process through your system and exit via sweat. As a result, Officer Friendly won’t be asking you to strap one on at a traffic stop.
So the Skyn won’t be good for sobriety field testing, but it will be useful for sobriety/inebriation tracking, which in the long run, makes it a much more valuable health aid.