The BACtrack Breathalyzer: Law Enforcement App or Hookup App?

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BACtrack Mobile Device BACtrack Breathalyzer

BACtrack Mobile Device (click for larger image)

The other day my lovely wife brought the BACtrack breathalyzer home from Costco. The price was about $50. The little box (see left) is sheer simplicity. It has an on-off button and a charging port. It’s designed to estimate you blood alcohol level, as well as give you feedback on your current degree of impairment. (BAC stands for blood alcohol content.)

The box connects with a mobile app via a private Bluetooth connection (not visible in the Bluetooth control panel). Turn on the box (ours needed charging first), fire up the app, pair the box and the app, and push the start button. Then blow into the tiny hole. You’ll need to purse your lips a bit because a precise airstream is essential. Otherwise you get to start over. And you must wait 15 minutes after you’ve consumed your last gulp of your favorite adult beverage. You’re trying to measure blood alcohol, not breath alcohol.

I got a reading of 0.027 last night after watching Netflix for a couple of hours. Seemed about right, but what do I know? But here’s the fun part: the app includes two features that make it unique.

One is a single button that will summon Über. If you deem your BAC too high to drive, just push the button and get a ride.

BACtrack Call Uber BACtrack Breathalyzer

(click for larger view)

But a second feature we immediately named the hookup button. Tap the globe button and your web browser will be launched with a Google map mashup that shows you alcoholics … er, device users in your area. And – bonus – the first map you see is the area that is most active more or less near your location. Down here in the greater Silicon Valley area, San Francisco consistently comes up first.

BACtrack Mobile App Home Screen BACtrack Breathalyzer

BACtrack Mobile App Home Screen (click for larger view)

And the device users are color coded to indicate their level of inebriation! Talk about an optimal hookup app! Here’s what San Francisco looked like the other day:

BACtrack Worldview BACtrack Breathalyzer

BACtrack Worldview (click for larger view)

BACtrack claims this is an opt-in service. If you do opt-in, here’s what someone will see if they click your icon on the map:

BACtrack Worldview User ProfileBACtrack Breathalyzer

BACtrack Worldview User Profile (click for larger view)

No word on whether information is also transmitted to law enforcement. My advice: only use this when the device is in a Faraday cage.

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About Tony Lima

Retired after teaching economics at California State Univ., East Bay (Hayward, CA). Ph.D., economics, Stanford. Also taught MBA finance at the California University of Management and Technology. Occasionally take on a consulting project if it's interesting. Other interests include wine and technology.