Are Our Smartphones The New Breathalyzers for Drinkers?

Have you ever imagined your smartphone could tell if you’ve had one too many drinks? Recent studies suggest this could soon be a reality, with our daily devices potentially playing a crucial role in monitoring intoxication levels.


Voice as a Clue to Intoxication


Researchers are now saying that the way you talk can reveal your intoxication level. In a pioneering study, Dr. Brian Suffoletto and his team from Stanford Medicine used smartphones to record speech and successfully predicted intoxication levels with incredible accuracy.

Dr. Suffoletto explained, “We found that changes in the participants’ voice patterns as the experiment went on predicted alcohol intoxication with 98 percent accuracy.”


The Study in Detail


This study wasn’t about downing shots and slurring words; it was science. Participants were given a precise amount of alcohol to drink, after which they recited tongue twisters. Smartphones were used to record their attempts before drinking and at hourly intervals afterward, while their breath alcohol concentration was also measured.

The motivation behind this research is simple but profound – preventing alcohol-related injuries and deaths. By having a tool that passively monitors a person’s state, it could be possible to offer help just when they need it most.



Current Technologies for Sobriety Monitoring


This isn’t the first time technology has been used to monitor sobriety. In the UK, about 1,800 offenders were tagged over the Christmas period to monitor alcohol intake through their sweat. “These tags are accurate enough to differentiate between alcohol-containing foods and drinks,” a Ministry of Justice spokesperson stated, highlighting the technology’s sensitivity.


Uber’s Role in Intoxication Detection


Uber, the popular ride-sharing app, also dipped its toes into intoxication detection. They filed a patent for a system that would use various data from the app user’s behavior to assess their state, potentially tailoring their services for those under the influence.


The Future of Intoxication Monitoring


The potential for this technology goes beyond just voice analysis. “We can’t always rely on speech data alone,” said Dr. Suffoletto. He suggests combining voice analysis with other behaviors, like walking patterns and texting habits, to improve accuracy.

Research shows promise, yet much work remains. Dr. Suffoletto emphasizes the need for broader studies, saying, “We need to confirm these voice patterns as reliable indicators of intoxication across a diverse population.”


Partnerships for Progress


To advance this technology, partnerships with companies that already collect speech samples, like smart speaker manufacturers, could be beneficial. Dr. Suffoletto sees this as a “call to action” for health authorities to develop digital biomarkers repositories.

Dr. Suffoletto emphasises that the early-stage research aims to create an intervention system that individuals will actively use to prevent injuries and save lives. The expectation is that the ongoing development of this technology will significantly reduce alcohol-related incidents and enhance public health.