Wearable alcohol sensors: scary or sensible?

Image courtesy of Milo Sensors, Inc.

Last year, I wrote about Skyn, a device designed to measure your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) via a bracelet that sends readings to your smartphone. Last week, a similar product was launched at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. It's called Proof and calls itself 'the first wearable for alcohol', unlike Skyn which calls itself, er, 'the world's first wearable alcohol monitor'.

That aside, the fact that this technology is evidently imminent has implications for the wine industry which are worth anticipating.

Both products offer the same essential proposition: continual measurement of your BAC from the sweat you exude via a monitor bracelet worn on the wrist. The readings are sent to a smartphone app which not only records your alcohol ingestion but offers additional functionality, such as warning you at certain pre-determined levels of intoxication, predicting when you'll be sober enough to drive, automatically texting people (with your permission) if you exceed a certain BAC and telling you how handsome you look. Okay, maybe not the last one.

Its application for people who want better control over their alcohol intake is self-evident. But how should the wine industry react? Too often, we tend to shy away from confronting drunkenness, responsibility and health - as if it's a problem only applicable to other, less sophisticated types of alcohol.

But devices such as these wearable alcohol monitors could have serious implications for the wine trade. For example, such devices could be used to ensure employees aren't getting drunk during wine tastings or when working at bars or in wine shops. They might be needed to satisfy a health insurance policy. They could be asked for as proof of sobriety when ordering wine at restaurants.

Those are perhaps extreme interpretations of the possibilities - but it would be foolish to ignore them outright. Anticipating potential usage and ensuring it won't impact negatively on our industry isn't just prudent, it's due diligence.

Furthermore, if a portion of the population starts recording their alcohol intake en masse, a potentially significant dataset will eventually emerge. Organisations in favour of restricting alcohol intake will most certainly seize on any chance to prove that people are drinking beyond recommended guidelines - regardless of whether they are choosing wine, beer, cider or sprits.

It will be very interesting to see how widely adopted alcohol monitoring wearables will become once they are in the market. The wine industry ought to be prepared to demonstrate how this sort of technology can be adopted for constructive means.