New Technology Measures Your Alcohol Intake

Sometimes when you’re out on the town, having a merry night of drinking, you can lose track of how much alcohol you consume. In fact, it’s not just a possibility, it’s a frequent occurrence, and more often than not it comes back to bite you in the butt the next morning. Thankfully, for when that Ibuprofen bottle is running low, two pieces of technology have been developed to monitor how much you drink on a given night. So yeah, you can no longer blame your morning hangover on losing track of your cups the previous night. Or (just) your genetics.

The first piece of tech is a temporary tattoo that clings to your skin, with a flexible electronic wristband that attaches magnetically to the tattoo. Together, they read the level of alcohol in your sweat and report their creepy findings to your smartphone. Once your night is over, you dispose of the temporary tattoo but keep the electronic wristband for future use. The concept isn’t to watch as the numbers uptick, laugh, and compete with friends. Entirely the opposite, in fact. As Joseph Wang, the UC San Diego nanoengineering professor behind the tattoo sees it, the “technology provides an accurate, convenient and quick way to monitor alcohol consumption to help prevent people from driving while intoxicated.” And that’s just one way the technology could be integrated into preventive future applications.

The second piece of technology is called BACtrack Skyn. It is a wristband that detects the level of alcohol in your blood by measuring the levels of ethanol escaping through your skin (fair warning, it takes “up to 45 minutes for alcohol to be transmitted through the skin”). Just like the temporary tattoo, the wristband will synch up with your smartphone. But you won’t necessarily get a real-time read after taking a shot or two; remember that whole 45-minute thing.


Besides the fact that these new technologies can help keep you from drinking too much and prevent a hangover, they could also be useful for doctors, who could theoretically access more accurate statistics on drinking habits instead of relying on intoxicated people to answer questionnaires honestly (not an intoxicated person’s strong suit). They also allow for some serious family-and-friends oversight. One device “can notify a family member if it detects alcohol in your system while you’re supposed to be on a quest for sobriety.” In fact, that device came about as part of a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism challenge (the “Wearable Alcohol Biosensor Challenge”) and beat seven out of eight other entrants.

And beyond possibly helping to prevent dangerous alcohol-related behavior, the devices may well make it harder for kids to hide their cranberry vodka consumption from their parents.