Category Archives: Alcohol

Quantifying Alcohol Consumption with BACtrack Mobile: Small, Fast, Accurate and Social

One aspect of health and wellness is measuring what we eat. While many mobile apps track calories to regulate diets, not many have tackled measuring the amount of alcohol consumed. In April 2013, BACtrack launched the world’s first smartphone breathalyzer, the BACtrack Mobile Breathalyzer.

The general concept of using a breathalyzer is to quickly estimate a person’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) to determine if he or she can legally get behind the wheel. But the BACtrack Mobile serves a higher purpose than that. The breathalyzer provides a quantitative way to track how you feel at different amounts of alcohol consumption – it is essentially a health tracker.

I tested the device and spoke with BACtrack president and founder, Keith Nothacker to learn more.

How did you decide it was time to make a mobile breathalyzer?

“We started to focus on mobile about two years ago, and launched the BACtrack in April 2013. It was a great time for us to design the device. We were finally able to bring down the cost of our fuel cell sensor technology. Years ago if you got pulled over by the police, they would be using a $500 device. Now the cost is a quarter of that. Also, the new bluetooth low energy chip gave us the ability to create a better mobile experience.” When you look at the price of the sensor versus the cost of getting a DUI (on average $10,000) or getting in an accident, monitoring is definitely worth it.

What kind of feedback do you get from people using the device?

“We hear feedback almost everyday. We’ve sold so many over the last decade and we often hear, ‘We had a party and it just changed everybody’s behavior.’ We see the device used in groups. If my friend blows a 0.12 in front of me, now there is quantifiable number that makes that person and all the other people around him accountable. It shares the responsibility and makes everyone safer.”

Keith was adamant on one point. “We tell people that you should not drink and drive at all. The purpose of the device is to understand how alcohol affects your body, not tell you when you can or cannot drive.”

The mobile app helps track your BAC and location and can estimate when you might be sober again. The device is best used 15 minutes after eating/drinking/smoking for the most accurate results.

How accurate is the device?

“The device uses the same fuel cell technology as the BACtrack S80, the handheld screening device that law enforcement uses. New accuracy data will be released on our website in the next few days.” BACtrack does lots of research to make sure their technology, for all devices, shows comparable accuracy to the expensive $10,000 lab instrument they have in their office (and found in police stations).

Who is your main target market?

“We have a pretty broad target market. The device is sold online and in stores like Walgreens and Costco. Purchasers include people who have gotten a DUI – about 1.4 million people a year get a DUI, those who are safety conscious, and suburban people with cars.” They have sold to high schools for prom and football games, small to mid-sized construction companies with zero tolerance rules, and even pizza delivery businesses so they can test teen drivers on Friday nights.

“We often get the question, ‘I drink responsibly, why do I need one?’ Once people use the device, a light bulb goes off. Try it out – you’ll be surprised. If you haven’t eaten and you drink during happy hour, your body reacts differently compared to when you have a drink with dinner. From a health perspective, if you drink alcohol at all, it’s something you could use.”

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