US government launches wearable alcohol monitor competition

Nearly 90,000 people in the US die annually from alcohol related issues. Drunk driving alone leads to more than 9,900 deaths.

Researchers suggest that wearables represent a convenient method for individuals to monitor their alcohol intake. Such devices have the potential to help reduce unsafe drinking that can lead to vehicle crashes and the deterioration of health in heavy drinkers.

Last year, the US government ran a competition and awarded a $200,000 first prize to San Francisco-based BACtrack for developing the prototype of a wrist wearable that detect traces of alcohol diffusing through the skin. BACtrack’s entry beat eight other prototypes. The wearable works by measuring blood alcohol levels through the skin using fuel cell technology.

While most consumed alcohol is processed within the body, some molecules escape through the skin in the form of ethanol. BACtrack is able to read this ethanol signal, and via sophisticated algorithms and device calibration convert the raw response reading to an estimated Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) reading. The device is still under development, but you can register on the BACtrack website to be first in line when it comes out.

In the ongoing search for more sophisticated technology capable of measuring blood alcohol levels, once again the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is running its wearable competition. This year, priority will be given to gadgets that use non-invasive technologies to measure alcohol concentration in the blood or interstitial fluids.

The creators of the winning prototype will be awarded $200,000 and second place will receive $100,000 through www.challenge.gov, the hub for federal incentive prize and challenge competitions. Since 2010, the website has offered more than $250 million in prize money across its range of competitions, along with valuable and unique incentives.

If you have a great idea and a working prototype for a device that measures blood alcohol levels in real time, register and submit your solution on www.challenge.gov by May 15, 2017. Winners will be announced on August 1, 2017.

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