Friday January 20th 2017

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A personal alcohol breath tester: WearSmith PRODUCT REVIEW

Are you as sober as you think?

Scientists have shown that we tend to feel sober as our blood alcohol concentration (BAC) starts to drop after our last consumed drink. But often, this is not the case! For example, if you measured 0.160mg/L when you stopped drinking, you may feel ready to drive. Problem is, the level of alcohol in your body may still be way too high, even though you feel just fine.

So, how can you know if you have really recovered from several drinks? Can a personal device help you make a decision about driving after drinking? And how/what can happen when you test yourself for BAC over time?

Recently, we personally tried a new product called WearSmith, on the verge of crowd funding launch. Here, we tell you more about our experiences using this personal breathalyzer gadget and app, and outline our testing process. Please join us with your questions and feedback in the comments section at the end of the page.

What is WearSmith?

The WearSmith is a small but “smart” alcohol breath tester. It comes in a slick box with a manual and is easy and simple to use: Fundamentally, you just blow into the mouthpiece. You don’t have to wait long for results and get BAC readings in about 10 seconds. What’s unique about the device is that it syncs with smart phones.

So, the first thing we liked about WearSmith is that you can either get the reading of your breath alcohol concentration through the OLED display on the gadget itself, or download the WearSmith app on your smartphone and connect it via Bluetooth for a more accurate reading. Most importantly, you can read results directly on the display and test your BAC even if you don’t have your phone around or your battery ran out.

How does WearSmith work?

WearSmith uses an electrochemical fuel sensor which is the same technology used in professional breathalyzers. The science behind electrochemical fuel cell breathalyzers lies in the process of alcohol (ethanol) oxidation to acetaldehyde.

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Let’s say you drink alcohol and it starts to metabolize. When you blow into an electrochemical fuel cell breathalyzer, an electrical current is produced as a result of the chemical reaction that takes place on the surface of an electrode system. This chemical reaction converts any alcohol into acetic acid, and produces a fixed number of electrons per molecule of alcohol – which is how your level of alcohol in the body is calculated.

These sensors are highly specific and sensitive to alcohol, but have one disadvantage: They may produce a falsely high reading if you have recently finished your drink and still have alcohol in your mouth (what you really want tested is your alveolar or deep lung air). In fact, one of the main guidelines of WearSmith is to wait about 20 minutes after consuming your last drink and rinse your mouth with water to avoid false high readings.

NOTE: The readings, personal experiences and opinions about The WearSmith breathalyzer are for informational purposes only. We’re not liable for another person’s use or product function.

Testing WearSmith first-hand

We thought that if we were to test WearSmith, we had to do it right. So, we gathered a small, controlled group of seven (7) participants with different tolerance levels, height, and body mass. The rules were:

  1. All must be volunteers.
  2. All have eaten a medium sized meal an hour before drinking began.
  3. Should drink three (3) drinks in two (2) hours’ time.
  4. The 1st drink is to be finished in 1 hour.
  5. The 2nd drink is to be finished in the following 30 min.
  6. The 3rd drink is to be finished in the remaining 30 min.

We went out in a bar on a Friday night and incorporated a lot of fun in our little experiment. But first, we blew into the mouthpiece to get an initial reading and make sure no one drank alcohol before the start of the experiment. All sober and awake, we went along to order our first round of drinks. Here are the results.

Test subject A: Maria

Let’s start with the most non-drinker of us all – Maria. At 116 lb (53 kg) and 5’5” (1.7 m) tall, she decided to drink vodka. The vodkas were standard size of 1.5 oz, which is about 40% alcohol per drink.

As you can see by the results in the screenshots, she couldn’t finish the experiment with a 3rd drink. Of course she didn’t have to push herself, so we decided it was best that she was done with drinking for the night.

A

 

Test subject B: Ivana

The second in line was Ivana. A non-drinker with low tolerance to alcohol, but with significantly larger body mass (71 kg or 156 lb) and height (1.87 m or 6’1”). Ivana drank 12oz beers with about 5% ABV (Alcohol % by Volume) and was able to finish all drinks.

After the last drink, WearSmith calculated Ivana’s alcohol content to be 0,257mg/L, which is about 0.05% BAC. Typical symptoms at this level of intoxication include:

  • concentration impairment
  • decreased inhibition
  • mild euphoria
  • relaxation
  • talkativeness

You can check the images to see how the level of alcohol in her body grew with each additional beer, as well as her recovery time.

B

 

Test subject C: Vava

Varvara decided to contribute to our review by drinking white wine. She is 5’5” (1.7 m) tall, weighs 138 lb (63 kg), and labels herself as a social drinker. This means that she has a physical tolerance to alcohol that is somewhat higher from that of a total non-drinker, but still can’t hold her liquor as much. She consumed three (3) drinks, each glass filled with standard 5oz of white wine. The estimate alcohol content is about 12% per glass.

C

 

Test subject D: Tamara

Tamara also labeled herself as a social drinker and opted for an all-time-favorite drink of many – Margaritas. The alcoholic ingredients in Margaritas include:

1. Tequila, with Alcohol % by Volume ranging from 31% to 55%.
2. Triple sec, with Alcohol % by Volume ranging from 15% to 40%.

Tamara is 5’4” (1.67 m) tall and weighs 163 lb (74 kg). At the end of her drinking she measured 0.327 mg of alcohol per L of plasma in her body, which is about 0.06% BAC. Please review how Tamara’s amount of alcohol in the body grew with each Margarita, and how her time of recovery increased exponentially.

D

 

Test subject E: Lydia

To move up to a test volunteer with a higher level of tolerance to alcohol, Lydia is only a social drinker but can definitely hold her liquor. She is 5’3” (1.64m) tall and weighs 141 lb (64 kg). Lydia opted for her favorite alcoholic beverage during the experiment – rum. The rum was a standard 1.5 oz drink, with about 40% alcohol.

In this case, you can see how larger tolerance to alcohol impairs you less. Lydia measured 0.180 mg/L or about 0.02% BAC after drinking 3 glasses of liquor, while Maria (Test subject A) for example, measured 0.231 mg/L or about 0.04% BAC after drinking 2 glasses of liquor.

E

 

Test subject F: Igor

Igor, one of our male test subjects, labeled himself as a frequent drinker. Frequent drinking for men is defined as having 5 or more drinks in one sitting. Igor is 5’8” (1.78m) tall and weighs 174 lb (79 kg). He had 3 x 12oz beers with about 5% ABV (Alcohol % by Volume).

Igor’s BAC measured 0.02% or 0.099 mg/L after the last drink. For comparison, Ivana (Test subject B) measured 0.05% BAC or 0,257mg/L for consuming the same amount of beer. While Ivana had some behavioral change and level of impairment; Igor, with his level of alcohol in the blood, appears completely normal and may only display subtle effects of impairment.

F

 

Test subject G: Tommy

Tommy drank whiskey and is a bit different test subject. Tommy already had 0.150 mg/L (or 0.03% BAC) of alcohol in his body at the start of our test. He is 5’6” (1.73m) tall and weighs 198 lb (90 kg). At the end of our experiment, he measured 0.333 mg/L (or 0.06% BAC).

Typical symptoms at this level of intoxication as described by Virginia Tech (not as experienced by Tommy), include:

  • blunted feelings
  • euphoria
  • disinhibition
  • impaired peripheral vision
  • irrational thoughts and inability for reasoning
  • reduced pain sensitivity

G

Why do we like WearSmith?

WearSmith seems to be everything its creators claim. The gadget is easy to take and use anywhere and it doesn’t take too much space. The app is free to download and available on iOS and Android.

Another feature we greatly appreciated is the calculation of the recovery time, or how long before the alcohol you drank is metabolized and eliminated from your body, and you are safe to drive. Plus, the app suggests an option to call a friend or a taxi to take you home, when results come back too high.

The WearSmith is really cool design-wise. The app is clean and easy to navigate. And there are manga-style characters that change to reflect your drinking status. Finally, we like the “History” option, which allows you to record testing results, time and date. This way, you will be able to track your drinking habits and drink more safely.

We wish we had another breathalyzer to compare results with The WearSmith and give more depth to our review. Although the apparatus does its calculations, we sometimes needed to blow several times as we would get different readings depending on our distance from the mouthpiece.

One thing we’d like to see improve in the profile setting is for users to be able to choose the appearance and race of the manga characters. We believe that this would only help accommodate a larger group of potential users of WearSmith.

WearSmith alcohol breath tester questions

Hope you like our product review and overview off what we like about this product. We hope that it helps you and many others to drink responsibly and not drive while alcohol is still present in your system. You can support the campaign and get your WearSmith before the public launch, or when worldwide shipping starts in September 2016.

If you have any questions or feedback, please post them in the comments section at the end of the page. We try to provide a personal and prompt response to all legitimate inquiries, or refer you to professionals who can help.

Reference Sources: King’s College London: Understanding Drugs and Addiction: Research Showcase 1: Acute drug effects on cognition and mood

Photo credit: Indiegogo

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