MWC: Phones That Test How Drunk You Are

MWC: Phones That Test How Drunk You Are

Checking for sobriety could be as easy as breathing on your cell phone, with new technology from a Japanese operator that takes personal monitoring to new levels.

NTT Docomo debuted a breathalyzer specifically designed for a smartphone at the Mobile World Conference. The snap-on case uses sensor technology to measure breath odor, and alcohol concentration.

The invention is the latest gadget to show how technology on phones can offer a number of useful services, and the innovation in its sensor technology could lead to a number of possibilities for health and safety interactivity.

The device, tested by many people at MWC, ranks the user’s inebriation level from 1 to 5 and reports alcohol concentration after breathing into the attachment. In theory, such information could curb drunk driving, even though the user’s choices ultimately determines that decision.

The breathalyzer attachment poses a certain appeal for law enforcement use during traffic stops, but its use by everyday people could be interpreted as an effort to skirt the law. People who use their own portable breathalyzers, and still drive drunk, could pose a danger to themselves or others if they misinterpreted the results, or if the device was faulty.

In the past, law enforcement took issue with a smartphone app alerting drivers to DWI checkpoints, as drivers violating the law could try to avoid getting pulled over. In response to concerns from enforcement agencies and lawmakers, developers removed the apps.

Regardless of its real-life applications, the sensor technology provides a host of possibilities. NTT Docomo’s sensor technology, with its compact, case-sized device, has other hygiene and lifestyle applications, like a body fat and muscle percentage measurement tool, and a weather sensor that calculates atmospheric pressure, temperature and humidity.

These uses could be just the tip of the iceberg for the technology, which offer other diagnostic benefits.

As a breathalyzer, the sensor technology is a useful innovation, since phones are kept close by their owners’ sides. But expanded testing could lead to other, inventive uses as smartphones become much more than devices for communication.

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