Out of eight other prototype entries in the Wearable Alcohol Biosensor Challenge, a competition by the National Institute of Health (NIH), BACtrack, a company widely known for manufacturing breathalyzers for personal and professional use, took home first prize with the Skyn, a wearable biosensor that could track blood alcohol content (BAC).
The BACtrack Skyn looks familiar to popular wearable fitness trackers worn around the wrist like Fitbit, but was created for a much more unique feature. This biosensor offers continuous monitoring of BAC, and is accessible through a smartphone app via Bluetooth connectivity. With extensive tracking, it can also create a history of your alcohol intake.
Through fuel cell technology, this wearable tech detects ethanol escaping through skin, providing non-invasive monitoring while keeping things sleek and less bulky. Although this feature, in theory, makes the lives of law enforcers easier, it may not be a practical solution. As the Skyn wearable relies on reading the alcohol levels on your skin, it takes up to 45 minutes for alcohol to be carried through the skin, which makes it quite inefficient in its current stage.
Nonetheless, the Skyn proves useful for individuals, especially for those that need to closely watch their drinking habits. The device is capable of warning you if you're drinking too much, or notifying someone else, like family members, if you're drinking when you're not supposed to. Potentially, you could use the data to show doctors or clinics for medical purposes.
This prototype won $200,000 in the competition issued by the NIH on "Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism" in 2015. The goal of the contest was to find a discreet and non-invasive wearable device that could improve upon the current alcohol monitoring technology.
Currently, Reuters reports that BACtrack has not submitted their prototype for FDA approval. The company, however, is still looking to release limited units, available through pre-order, towards the end of the year.