Smartphones Could Be Used to Detect Whether You are Drunk

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smartphone drunk

Smartphones can do many things thanks to the wealth of apps on the various app stores. They use a number of sensors or a combination of them to make them ‘aware’ of their surroundings and developers have come up with neat ways to use these sensors. Well, some people are even using them to detect the intoxication levels in humans.

Accelerometers on smartphones are used to make sure that imagens on the screens of phones are always displayed upright. Well, they have an interesting application

Researchers from Stanford and University of Pittsburg published a preliminary study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. They used a small group of participants (22) to show that alcohol intoxication could likely be detected by the accelerometer that is present in modern smartphones.


They sought to use smartphone accelerometers to sense gait impairments due to alcohol intoxication. One of the most prominent side effects of alcohol is how it affects your gait and it was a valid entry to see whether your smartphone can be used to track a change.

17 study participants were asked to walk 10 steps in a straight line, turn and walk 10 steps back before drinking and each hour for up to 7 hours after drinking a weight based dose of alcohol to reach a breach alcohol concentration of 0.2%. The smartphones were placed on the lumbar region (back) and the 3 axis accelerometer data was recorded.

“In this laboratory study, we found that smartphones can capture unique gait features that are sensitive to alcohol intoxication, classifying alcohol intoxication within individuals with an accuracy of around 90%. These findings extend prior published research examining the use of phone sensors to detect gait changes related to alcohol,” they said it in the discussion page.

“We found preliminary evidence supporting use of gait-related features measured by smartphone accelerometer sensors to detect alcohol intoxication. Future research should determine whether these findings replicate in situ,” they said as a conclusion.

The researchers aid that the findings are limited by the small sample size, the use of a cohort that drank below risky levels and controlled setting of data measurement.


The scientists say that their work could offer opportunities for triggering just in time interventions at improving prevention and treatment of alcohol use disorders. Our smartphones do basically everything now so it is not a surprise that they can be used to track whether we are too intoxicated.

The researchers say despite limitations, this proof of concept on using smartphones to remotely detect alcohol related impartments provides a foundation for future research. Current tools to measure alcohol consumption require purchase of additional hardware. They say that a mobile app could be built to sense periods of walking using Google’s API “on foot” classification, measure accelerometer signals, and when sway patterns are recognized and trigger just in time support.


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