You may have seen a news story about a pilot who was breathalysed on turning up for work, failed the test and was sent home. You may have thought “Quite right, the public must be protected”. But did you go on to think “So what, suppose he turned up sober and picked up a bottle of wine off the drinks trolley during the flight.” Or there again, a train driver with a hip flask, a taxi driver having a few Scotches with lunch? Checking when they start work is all very well. How can they be checked across a working day? Why doesn’t somebody come up with a cheap compact device that can monitor their blood while at work?
Somebody just did.
The principle of reading blood alcohol from the sweat has been around for some time, but the devices are expensive and bulky—think breathalyser strapped to the leg. Dart Sensors, the world’s biggest supplier of breath alcohol sensors, has developed a low cost device that can be strapped to the arm, no bigger than a wristwatch, that can continuously monitor blood alcohol for 10 hours or so and communicate the data to a mobile phone, to be transmitted for later review or immediate action.
Pre-production prototypes will shortly be available for evaluation. Subject to acceptance we can build in anti-tamper technology to ensure that the device can not be cheated. If all goes well and the technology gets accepted and mandated, the world will be a little bit safer for us all.
And now you are thinking, “Hey, when can I get one of these toys?”. Sorry, you can’t. The reason is not any failing with the technology, it works very well. It’s simply that the simple consumer breathalyser, with which it will inevitably be compared, is a very poor estimator of actual blood alcohol, but is now the standard against which other technologies will be compared.