One-Liner Pitch: Alcohoot is a breathalyzer that attaches to your smartphone.
Why It’s Taking Off: The device fits comfortably in a pocket or purse and accuracy is comparable to police-grade devices, plus, a companion app ensures you’re empowered to make safer choices based on your blood alcohol content (BAC).
While serving in the Israeli military, Jonathan Ofir and Ben Biron would drive by a sign outside their base that read “X soldiers killed from drunk driving” and the number steadily increased.
“We knew it was totally avoidable,” says Ofir.
In 2011 he, along with co-founders Biron and Max Koeppel, started work on a breathalyzer that would attach to a smartphone, but they knew such a device would never make a dent in these preventable drunk driving deaths unless the device was aesthetically pleasing — something you wouldn’t feel ashamed to pull out in a social situation.
“We designed it into something that will be socially acceptable,” says Ofir, “so you don’t feel awkward if you pull it out at a bar.”
The first challenge was to make the breathalyzer accurate. Alcohoot chose to use fuel cell sensors, which are used in police-grade tools, rather than the semi-conductors that power cheaper devices.
“When you’re dealing with any kind of analytical instrument, you want to make sure it’s accurate,” says Ofir.
After rigorous testing, they also made the device as small as possible. Even with the high quality, the team was able to price the tool at $75, so it could be affordable for people like themselves or their friends.
Ofir says when they’ve taken Alcohoot out in public, it gets attention — people want to test themselves. As it turns out, the device has a lot of potential as a “quantified self” device, not just to promote safe driving.
The companion app will log your blood alcohol level, so if you want to check back later, you can monitor your sobriety throughout the night, and get a better sense of what you can handle. Ofir has seen beta users check themselves every hour.
The app at launch will provide contact information for cabs and plugs into Yelp to find currently open restaurants nearby, if someone isn’t able to drive. Eventually they would like the app to connect with services like Uber to make finding a safe ride home more seamless for users.
Breathalyzer devices to date have been either expensive or not accurate — Alcohoot’s team essentially wanted to create something they personally would use. The design details on their device reveal they’ve put a lot of thought into how to make this device work in social situations. Even the audio jack slides into the device so it won’t poke you in your pocket.
“It really promotes sobriety awareness without the guilt factor,” Ofir says.
The device, in beta, is on pre-order now on Alcohoot’s website. Manufacturing is all set and devices will begin shipping this fall.