Feds to Spend Millions on Jewelry, Clothes That Monitor How Much You Drink

NIH wants Americans to wear 'non-invasive, discreet' devices to track alcohol levels in real time

A reveller drinks cider from a wellington boot / Getty Images
May 24, 2018

The National Institutes of Health is preparing to spend millions on research studies to develop jewelry and clothes that can monitor the alcohol intake of Americans.

The agency recently submitted two grant opportunities, asking for submissions from applicants to receive federal funding to develop "wearable alcohol biosensors."

"Rapid advances are being made in wearable technology, including clothing, jewelry and other devices with broadly diverse functions that meet medical or consumer needs," according to the funding opportunity.

The government wants to invest more taxpayer funding into alcohol monitors to encourage their "wider use."

"Alcohol detection technology for personal alcohol monitoring has been successful in judicial and law enforcement settings, yet needs significant modification for wider use in other situations," according to the announcement. "Current technological developments in electronics, miniaturization, wireless communication, and biophysical techniques of alcohol detection in humans increase the likelihood of successful development of a general use alcohol biosensor in the near future."

The purpose of the projects is to design "non-invasive, discreet" wearable devices that can monitor blood alcohol levels in real time.

"The alcohol biosensor device should be unobtrusive, appealing to the wearer, and can take the form of jewelry, clothing," the government said.

It is unclear how many studies will be approved, though the government is planning to invest heavily in the technology by waiving budget caps. Initial projects that are approved can receive more than $225,000, and Phase II projects can receive more than $1.5 million each.

The NIH said the number of grants it funds is "contingent upon NIH appropriations and the submission of a sufficient number of meritorious applications."

The government is seeking alcohol trackers that stores data and sends it to a smartphone. "Data storage and transmission must be completely secure in order to protect the privacy of the individual," the agency said.

"The alcohol biosensor device should be unobtrusive, appealing to the wearer, and can take the form of jewelry, clothing, or any other format located in contact with the human body," the agency said. "Techniques to quantitate alcohol in blood or interstitial fluid are highly encouraged. Highest priority will be given to technologies that depart from measuring alcohol in sweat or sweat vapor."

"It is envisioned that wearable alcohol monitors will serve useful purposes in research, clinical, and treatment settings, will play a role in public safety, and will be of interest to individuals interested in keeping track of personal health parameters," the agency added. "Designs may emphasize any of these potential market subsets or may seek to be broadly marketable."

Published under: Government Spending