How much had you had to drink? No, really how much? Even if you can focus on the empty bottles, your sozzled arithmetic probably won't tell you how many units you've had. You could always try a breathalyzer, but chances are you won't have one of them to hand. Enter Milo Sensors and its wearable alcohol tracker, first revealed back at this year's CES, and now on Indiegogo hoping to soak up funds ahead of a December launch.
Proof looks like your generic fitness tracker, but its sensor does something very different to your Fitbit - it can track your alcohol level by monitoring the ethanol that naturally diffuses through your skin and turns it into an electric current. CEO Evan Strenk insisted there's enough of it to get an accurate, continuous reading that will tell you how drunk you are.
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Not only would this mean a more convenient means of testing your booze levels, but would give you a much larger snapshot of your alcohol intake over a longer period of time. "The difference with the breathalyzer is that when you breathe into it you get one data point, and you have to stop drinking for 30 minutes," explained Strenk. "Flow is monitoring one data point per second".
He describes it as like the difference between a photo and a video. "What you can get with a continuous stream of data is completely different and opens up new doors that were completely impossible with a breathalyzer."
Flow's magic lies inside the replaceable cartridges, which Strenk says will last 12 hours each and be sold in packs of five. Unlike most other fitness trackers, the Flow isn't meant to be one you'll keep on your wrist 24/7, but rather strap on when you know you'll be drinking. The sensors need to be replaced to keep them accurate. A professional grade breathalyzer has to be recalibrated around every 1,000 uses, but a wearable sensor tracking data points at one per second is going to be even more labored. "It's this common denominator you'll see with biosensors in the future," added co-founder and CTO Bob Lansdorp. "When you're up against a sensor, that sensor is going to have to go up against a lot to ensure it's giving you an accurate reading."
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He says there's about a 40 minute delay for the alcohol to get through the skin, and Milo has built an algorithm that will start estimating your BAC as soon as the first ethanol molecules show up. You'll be able to set alerts in the app that will tell you when you hit predetermined limits. "Normally the delay for human being we see is about 40 minutes from having a drink, and that can't be overcome, it's our metabolism," said Lansdorp. "But it does vary from human to human."
Great question. Glad you asked. It seems Milo's biggest challenge still remains: proving it's actually accurate. The company is yet to give us anything specific, but it's confident that it's nailed it, and by the end of the year will have a working device ready to ship. It's clearly got the confidence of the backers too, as it went live just hours ahead of writing and is already at 62% of the $25,000 goal.
Strenk said it's not a "day or night" situation with funding; Milo has had some private investment already, not to mention $100,000 from a National Institutes of Health competition last year. He revealed the tracker will cost $149 at retail, while the cartridges haven't yet been priced. Right now it's $20 for a 10-pack on Indiegogo, but prices for early backers on both the tracker and cartridges will vary to the final amounts. The first 500 backers will receive their tracker this December, said Strenk, while the company plans to ship widely from the start of 2018.
But even more interesting is where the team can take the idea from here. Now that they're convinced they can "We really see that alcohol is opening the door to the super highway of small molecules," said Strenk. "With just a couple of tweaks we can read other molecules that naturally pass through your skin and diffuse as well. And there are hundreds of different molecules - the skin is actually a super highway of small molecules - so we'll be able to access things like your kidney health, liver health, and predictors for all kinds of diseases and conditions, like gout, and all sorts of cardiovascular diseases."