The Alcohoot is a breathalyzer for smartphones. Much like traditional breathalyzers also available to consumers, it helps those who drink monitor their blood alcohol levels. They are, however, quite controversial particularly among healthcare professionals. Proponents argue that they can promote more responsible behaviors and perhaps be used as a platform to curb excessive alcohol use. Opponents note a range of unintended consequences that could pose significant risks and provide a false sense of security to users.

The Alcohoot is about the size of a matchbox and weighs just 50g. It works by being plugged into the audio port of a smartphone or tablet that runs its complementary app. To measure their blood alcohol level, the user blows into the sensor port, after which the smartphone or tablet being used will display the estimated blood alcohol levels of the user.

In addition to measuring your blood alcohol level, Alcohoot provides the user with quick access to Uber with the touch of a button so that a taxi can be ordered in the event of being over the legal blood alcohol limit to drive. Alcohoot can also navigate restaurants within walking distance so that the user can sober up and also tracks consumption and drinking habits.

It would be interesting if apps and devices such as these started to pair up with or offer functionality that would enable users to decrease their drinking, or send them an alert telling them the harms of drinking in excess.

From a public health perspective, there are interesting and potentially beneficial applications for this type of device. However it’s also clear that there are risks as well. For example, while someone may have a BAC below the legal limit at one point in time, recent consumption could cause a continued rise. Furthermore, it’s not hard to imagine more irresponsible uses – think about those college frat parties for example.

The Alcohoot works for both iOS and Android devices and is available in three different colors (red, white and black). It is available for $119 from the Alcohoot website.

Iltifat Husain MD contributed to this piece