Alcohol Monitoring Wristband Wins Top NIAAA Prize

By John Lavitt 05/25/16

The BACtrack Skyn prototype is like a Fitbit for alcohol users, offering real-time monitoring of blood alcohol content.

Alcohol Monitoring Wristband Wins Top NIAAA Prize
Photo via NIAAA/YouTube

A new blood alcohol monitoring device, the BACtrack Skyn, is no bigger than a Fitbit and offers a discreet way to track one's own drinking habits. Last week the device won the top prize in a challenge issued by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) to create a non-invasive, wearable device that can monitor blood alcohol content in (near) real-time. The Skyn, which is still in the prototype phase, could change the way people cut down on drinking, or drinking altogether. 

"What if we made something that, instead of being clearly marked as, 'Hey I have a problem, look at me!' What if we said, let's make this cool. Let's make this something that people want to wear," BACtrack founder and CEO Keith Nothacker said in a video the company submitted to the challenge.

The device offers real-time monitoring of the user's blood alcohol content, which is logged on a smartphone app. The app, which is synced with the Skyn device, could also vibrate to notify a user when they are approaching a certain alcohol level, to remind them to slow down at the bar or wherever they may be, according to the company's website. The device would even allow a friend or family member to monitor a user's drinking, notifying them if his or her BAC rises above 0.00 %BAC.  

In addition to allowing individuals to monitor their drinking, the Skyn could replace self-reported alcohol consumption data "to aid researchers and treatment providers in collecting more reliable data and ultimately, make advances in healthcare treatment," said Nothacker.

BACtrack is already known for selling portable breath alcohol testers for consumer and professional use. In 2004, the San Francisco-based company became the first to receive FDA approval for a consumer breathalyzer.

The company will use the $200,000 NIAAA grand prize to bring the Skyn to market. "We want to do for wearable alcohol monitors what we did for breath alcohol testers," said Nothacker in a statement. "Early on, breathalyzers were big and bulky and only available for law enforcement. BACtrack made breathalyzers low-cost, sleek, and a safety product that anyone can and should use. We have the same vision for BACtrack Skyn."

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Growing up in Manhattan as a stutterer, John Lavitt discovered that writing was the best way to express himself when the words would not come. After graduating with honors from Brown University, he lived on the Greek island of Patmos, studying with his mentor, the late American poet Robert Lax. As a writer, John’s published work includes three articles in Chicken Soup For The Soul volumes and poems in multiple poetry journals and compilations. Active in recovery, John has been the Treatment Professional News Editor for The Fix. Since 2015, he has published over 500 articles on the addiction and recovery news website. Today, he lives in Los Angeles, trying his best to be happy and creative. Find John on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.