WEARABLE BLOOD ALCOHOL MONITORS
You’ve seen the ankle bracelets that some people are ordered by the court to wear to monitor their whereabouts while under house arrest. And you are probably aware of the Ignition Interlock Devices (IID) that are being ordered in many counties in California after conviction on a DUI. Here’s a new one that will probably become a new tool in the state’s ever sophisticated ways to regulate drunk driving: Wearable Blood Alcohol Monitors.
Several wearable blood alcohol monitors have been developed and will soon be available to law enforcement and the public. One of these devices—a type of skin patch— has been developed by UC San Diego engineers. It is described as a “temporary tattoo” that sticks to the skin and electrochemically detects alcohol levels through the wearer’s sweat. Maybe they decided to describe it as a “tattoo” rather than a skin patch to make it sound more appealing. In order to read the results, a small electronic circuit board is connected to the tattoo by a magnet and the results are communicated via Bluetooth.
The researchers have tested this device and say that it provides an accurate BAC reading even after repeated bending and shaking of the tattoo. The researchers are currently working on a version that will continuously monitor alcohol levels for 24 hours. This device has several applications. It could be used by the end consumer who wants to monitor his or her BAC so as to avoid driving over the DUI threshold limit. This device, or something like it, could also be utilized by the courts. Like an ankle bracelet monitor or an IID, the court of the near future could order DUI offenders to wear this monitor at all times he or she is driving. If he or she is pulled over, the cop will have the information that the driver is being monitored and check instantly whether the driver has any alcohol in his or her blood. (There is a zero-tolerance condition of DUI probation.)
Another device soon to be offered on the consumer market is the “BACtrack Skyn.” Catchy name. The US government runs “challenges” every year, awarding monetary prizes to winners. One such challenge in 2015 was to design and produce a device that could be worn, which is inconspicuous and low profile, that will monitor blood alcohol levels in real time. The prize was awarded to the BACtrak Skyn in May 2016. The company that developed this device received prize money of $200,000. The BACtrak Skyn is worn on the wrist like a watch or it can be integrated into an Apple Watch band. It continuously monitors the wearer’s blood alcohol levels using fuel cell technology and like the “tattoo,” measures the alcohol levels via the person’s sweat. It too sends the data via Bluetooth.
The BACtrack Skyn is currently being promoted as a device for consumers as a way to notify the wearer that his or her BAC is increasing and to slow down or stop drinking. But this type of technology could certainly serve as a continuous monitor for use by probation officers or the police.
Expect some form of this technology to join the courts’ tool box. DUI offenders could be ordered, as a condition of probation, to wear a device whenever they are driving that monitors whether they have any alcohol in their blood. And perhaps it sounds dystopian, but conceivably there could be a future law that requires every driver to wear some kind of blood alcohol monitor. Of course, by then we will all be getting around in driverless cars so I wouldn’t sweat it.
William Weinberg has almost 25 years of experience defending drivers charged with driving under the influence. You may consult with him about your DUI matter by contacting him at his Irvine office at 949-474-8008 or emailing him at Bill@williamweinberg.com