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Flexible temporary tattoo will let your phone know how drunk you are

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Image used with permission by copyright holder
A team of researchers at the University of California, San Diego have created a smart wearable temporary tattoo, capable of sending information to your smartphone about your possible level of inebriation.

The device, which is worn on the skin, works by detecting alcohol levels in perspiration. It could, its creators hope, be a handy way of letting individuals monitor their personal alcohol intake.

“The number of DUIs each year is enormous,” Jayoung Kim, one of the authors on the paper, told Digital Trends. “Breathalyzers — which are the most commonly-used alcohol sensor — have the chance to give false-signals if, for example, you measure as soon as you finish an alcoholic drink. Therefore, we wanted to develop a wearable non-invasive alcohol sensor to give more accurate data in a real-time. Hopefully it can contribute to reducing the number of DUIs.”

The wearable sensor uses a technique called iontophoresis to induce perspiration on the skin underneath the patch. Another component then senses changes in the electrical current that flows through the generated sweat — and measures this for alcohol levels.

While measuring alcohol levels in perspiration has been attempted before, these attempts typically take around two to three hours to produce a reading. The new wearable sensor, on the other hand, sends a reading to a user’s smartphone in only eight minutes via Bluetooth.

Combined with the fact that it is non-invasive and can be worn discretely, it makes the possibility of near real-time alcohol monitoring a practical possibility for the first time.

“We still have several things to do before we can bring this to market,” Kim said. “Currently, we are working on testing it with a larger number of subjects to get better accuracy, and to develop a more user-friendly app. We think it would be possible to connect it with a car service like Uber or Lyft, or to send a message to a friend when you are drunk.”

Luke Dormehl
I'm a UK-based tech writer covering Cool Tech at Digital Trends. I've also written for Fast Company, Wired, the Guardian…
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