Feds Want Inventors to Design Wearable Alcohol Biosensors

By Paul Gaita 03/09/15

The NIH wants to find inventors who can make an alcohol-monitoring device that can measure BAC in real time.

blood alcohol level.jpg
A thing of the past? Shutterstock

Technologically inclined individuals may want to turn their attention to a new challenge issued by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The federal agency is offering substantial monetary prizes to the person or business that can develop a “wearable alcohol biosensor,” which can monitor and store blood alcohol level in real time.

According to a notice issued by the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the device must be “inconspicuous, low profile and appealing to the wearer,” and can be fashioned as an article of clothing, jewelry, or item, as long as it remains “non-invasive."

Most significantly, the proposed device must be able to collect data on blood alcohol levels at a faster rate than current technology, which can provide information every 30 minutes. “We are seeking a solution that improves on this interval and most closely approximates real time monitoring and data collection,” the agency stated in its notice. “The device should be able to quantitate blood alcohol level, interpret and store the data, or transmit it to a smartphone or other device by wireless transmission.”

The person or business that creates the alcohol biosensor according to the NIH’s specification will not only “advance the mission of the NIAAA” in its efforts to prevent alcohol abuse “in the arenas of research, treatment and rehabilitation.” There’s also a financial incentive: the NIH anticipates that the device will “stimulate investment from public and private sectors.”

A panel at NIAAA will judge submissions on accuracy of data collection, functionality, issues of privacy and “acceptability to wearers.” The submission deadline is December 1, 2015. First and second prizewinners, who will receive $200,000 and $100,000 for their submissions, respectively, will be announced in February 2016.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, Amazon.com and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.