Future iPhones Could Detect If You Are Too Drunk to Drive

Smartphone technology has come a long way in the past decade. Now a research paper by the University of Pittsburg details how the iPhone could use inbuilt accelerometers to detect if you had one too many drinks. The technology analyses gait (walking style) and identify impairments due to alcohol consumption.

The best part of the feature is that you dont need new hardware on the phone. Most of the high-end smartphones like the iPhone already come equipped with a robust accelerometer. The same can be used to detect whether the user is drunk or not. iPhone already has apps that make use of sensors and warn users if they are exceeding the speed limits. In the same way, your phone can soon determine whether you are too drunk to drive or not.

SENSING ALCOHOL INTOXICATION in real time could offer opportunities for triggering just-in-time interventions aimed at improving prevention and treatment of alcohol use disorders. For individuals in treatment, it could trigger immediate remote support from a sponsor, which could reduce relapse risk. For an individual with heavy drinking, it could trigger just-in-time resources aimed at reducing further alcohol consumption or other related risks like drinking and driving, potentially mitigating individual and public health harms.

As part of the initial study, a small group of people was tested. The test group included 22 participants aged between 21-43, which included 15 men and seven women. Each member was given vodka and lime. The participants drank until the alcohol level in their blood reached 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood. This is the legal drink-drive limit in countries like the US and UK.

Researchers strapped a smartphone to the back of the participants and asked them to take ten steps in a straight line. Furthermore, the participants were asked to turn around and walk back. Using the feature researchers were able to identify 17 out of 22 participants as people who have crossed the drinking limit. All of this was possible by analyzing gait data.

Our Take

Alcohol-related disorders are relatively common in our society. A smartphone feature that will tell whether you are drunk will potentially act as a deterrent. At this point, the research is still at a preliminary stage, and we should get a better picture with larger test groups.

University of Pittsburg]

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