Smartphones may be able to track intoxication

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh believe smartphones could detect intoxication levels and deter drinkers from behaving dangerously.

Led by Brian Suffoletto MD, who now works at Stanford University in California, researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, US, found the sensors in smartphones can be used to detect high blood alcohol concentration.

The research, published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, saw participants walk 10 steps in a straight line, turn, and walk 10 steps back before drinking. Participants were given a weight-based dose of alcohol to reach a breath alcohol concentration of 0.2%.

Smartphones were then used to measure participants’ walking speed and movements. Suffoletto and his team found the devices were more than 90% accurate in detecting when participants’ blood alcohol concentration had exceeded the legal limit for driving, which is 0.08%.

Suffoletto hopes the research will mean that in the future, people could receive an alert at the first sign of impairment, encouraging them to avoid dangerous activities such as driving.

The research has been welcomed by CEO Chris Swonger, who said: “The majority of Americans drink responsibly, and’s experience shows that technology can have a huge positive impact on educating Americans about the effects of alcohol impairment.”

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Author: Owen Bellwood