The last few years have seen the advent of revolutionary wristbands that are making significant strides in the health and fitness sector. These days, wearables can do everything from track steps and heart rate metrics to, in the case of the latest Apple Series 4 watch, detect if the wearer has fallen and alert 911, thanks to a built-in accelerator and gyroscope.
But thanks to new patent-pending technology from California-based company Milo Sensors, one upcoming wristband will boast a unique feature: the ability to measure blood alcohol content levels straight through the skin.
Operating out of UC Santa Barbara’s California Nanosystems Institute Incubator, Milo Sensors specializes in developing continuous non-invasive molecule sensors for health applications. Its latest foray into the world of BAC biosensors earned the company a $100,000 prize from the National Institute of Health in its “Wearable Alcohol Biosensor” challenge, as well as a $223,000 Small Business Innovation Research Grant. This team is onto something, and both the science community and commercial industry are taking note.
So — how does it work, exactly? “Science,” is the company’s cheeky response. Simply put, the ethanol from an alcoholic beverage travels from the stomach to the bloodstream; according to the company, some of this is exhaled through the breath, while some diffuses naturally through the skin. Milo Sensors’ patent-pending technology uses an electrochemical cartridge to convert trace amounts of ethanol into an electrical current. That current is then amplified, digitized, and the data transmitted to a smartphone. And while there is a delay between the presence of molecules in the blood and their potential for detection in the skin, PROOF™’s technology provides “continuous, discrete, non-invasive transdermal data, and doesn’t require you to blow into it.” This is a big plus for those looking for a streamlined alternative to even the tiniest breathalyzers on the market; even those designed to fit on a keychain require the user to find space and time (and, realistically, the presence of mind) to use it. Breathalyzers also require a waiting period of up to thirty minutes post-drink to avoid false positives, and their performance can be impacted by humidity. A device that lives on the body, however, offers a discreet alternative that keeps working, regardless of the level of inebriation.
And when we say discreet, we mean it. PROOF™ is virtually indistinguishable from fitness wristbands; the early prototype is comprised of a sleek, black silicone band with a minimalist anodized aluminum cover, equipped with a vibration motor and multi-colour LED that can send smart alerts to the wearer. Data is also sent from the wristband to a corresponding app on the wearer’s smartphone via a low-energy Bluetooth 4.0.
The team of electrochemists, polymer chemists, mechanical and chemical engineers behind PROOF™ conducted over one thousand test studies over the course of two years in the development of this unique wearable. The replaceable cartridges, which fit into the underside of the aluminum band (and lock in magnetically), run for twelve hours and can track BACs through a night of drinking and into the next morning. An efficient 12mAh lithium polymer battery can power the watch for up to four days of continuous use; on a long weekend away, one may have to change the cartridge, but the watch won’t need to be removed for a charge.
The company is careful to specify that this device is not designed to determine whether the wearer is too inebriated to drive. The purpose of PROOF™ is safe consumption; it is designed for casual drinkers and all-night partiers alike. It is intended for office parties and wine tastings, or house parties where the free-pours can be hard to measure. At its core, PROOF™ is a tool for responsible decision-making.
While PROOF™ is still in development and not yet available for purchase, those interested in obtaining the device once it goes to market can sign up on the product’s Indiegogo page for news and updates on this exciting new wearable.
Photos via Indigogo.