A Breathalyzer for Christmas

A breathalyzer makes a very practical and desirable Christmas gift. The newest work with smartphones. Here are a couple of suggestions:

Alcohoot* The Alcohoot personal breathalyzer is another in the new wave of alcohol monitors that work with smartphones. According to a review at the Android Guys website.

The Alcohoot was pretty accurate for such a small device, but more importantly it was consistent. The Alcohoot almost always gave readings within a few points of the more expensive, professional unit.  For example, a friend blew a 0.023 on the police unit, then seconds later blew a 0.030 on the Alcohoot.  While the Alcohoot read higher, it always gave a consistently higher reading.  It never gave a higher reading than the professional unit, then a lower reading the next go around.  This consistency is one of the best parts of the Alcohoot.

Check out Amazon for more reviews and the latest price.

BACtrack Vio* For the drunk on the move comes the new BACtrack Vio keychain breathalyzer. Like just about everything else these days, it comes with Bluetooth connectivity and its own app thaty allows you to process alcohol readings on your computer or mobile device.

lengthy article in Fast Company describes the Vio:

Inside the Vio breathalyzer is a sensor attached to a circuit board that measures the change in resistance, based on the number of alcohol particles that hit the sensor when the user blows. About half the size of BACtrack Mobile, the new Vio model uses a fold-out channel the user blows through (with the option to use a mouthpiece accessory) and is powered by a AAA battery. The battery door was flimsy in the early media unit I received, but the company says it addressed the design flaw by mass production time.

Check out Amazon for more details and the latest price.

Blood Pressure Monitors – How Accurate Are They?

Read the publicity material from health device manufacturers, or check out reviews at Amazon, and you might assume that home-use blood pressure monitors nowadays are about as accurate as professional models.

Not so, says a Canadian doctor, who has carried out his own tests.

The Harvard Health Blog tells us more –

“Home blood pressure monitors may be inaccurate in 5% to 15% of patients, depending on the threshold for accuracy used,” according to Dr. Swapnil Hiremath, a kidney specialist at Ottawa Hospital in Canada.

Because many doctors do rely at least in part on home measurements to guide treatment, such inaccuracies could end with some people taking too much or too little blood pressure medication. 

…The fact that blood pressure measurements vary is no surprise. Blood pressure wanders all over the map throughout the day. It’s generally lowest first thing in the morning, after a person wakes up, and then steadily rises. Blood pressure responds dynamically to movements, meals, and moods.

“Blood pressure is variable even when measured by precise methods,” says Dr. Christian Ruff, a cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “To get a more accurate assessment of blood pressure, regardless of blood pressure monitor used, people should perform multiple recordings and average them.”

Dr. Ruff strongly encourages home monitoring to help keep a person’s blood pressure within healthy boundaries. “Home monitoring allows patients and their physicians to jointly engage and optimize treatment of hypertension in a more rapid manner.”

Alcohoot Breathalyzer – “Accurate and Consistent”

AlcohootGood review of the Alcohoot personal breathalyzer – another in the new wave of alcohol monitors that work with smartphones – at the Android Guys website.

The Alcohoot is just a bit bigger than a Zippo lighter so it can fit in just about any pocket or purse.  It should work with any Android or iOS device, as long as you have a 3.5mm port and download the companion app.  This really makes the Alcohoot easy to carry on a night out.  Even if you don’t use the breathalyzer feature, the Alcohoot can help you find restaurants close to you or taxis to get you safely home.  For $99 there are a ton of features packed into the Alcohoot.

…The Alcohoot was pretty accurate for such a small device, but more importantly it was consistent. The Alcohoot almost always gave readings within a few points of the more expensive, professional unit.  For example, a friend blew a 0.023 on the police unit, then seconds later blew a 0.030 on the Alcohoot.  While the Alcohoot read higher, it always gave a consistently higher reading.  It never gave a higher reading than the professional unit, then a lower reading the next go around.  This consistency is one of the best parts of the Alcohoot.

Check out Amazon for more reviews and the latest price.

Baidu to Sell Blood Pressure Monitor

Baidu blood pressure monitor2Chinese internet giant Baidu sees personal health monitors as offering great potential, and it plans to sell a new smartphone-connected home blood pressure monitor.

Called the Mumu BP2, it has been developed by Chinese health device manufacturer Mumu.

According to a report

Mumu is completely wireless and runs on a rechargeable battery. With the aim of being as simple as possible, it only has two buttons: power and Bluetooth connection. Everything else is controlled by the app. Users can monitor the data in real time and record it on Baidu Cloud, including systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure and heart rate. To accommodate for older phones – likely those used by elderly users – the device and app are compatible with the older Bluetooth 2.1 and the newer 4.0.

Commentators note that blood pressure monitors are relatively simple to make and require little expertise to use. They also clearly meet a need – a World Health Organization report published one year ago shows hypertension affects over 40 percent of Chinese adults aged 45 or older.

The Mumu BP 2 is now available for pre-order in China for RMB 399 (US$65) and will ship on November 8.

Basis Peak Activity Tracker – Answering All the Complaints

Basis PeakLots of interest in the new Basis Peak fitness tracker due very soon.

Here’s PC Mag:

Intel-owned Basis Science today announced a new $199 wristwatch activity tracker and smartwatch with a built-in optical heart rate monitor, touch screen, support for some push notifications from iPhones and Android smartphones, and a swim-safe design.

Dubbed Basis Peak, the new fitness tech gadget is essentially a 2.0 version of the equally priced Basis Carbon Steel Edition (which originally launched as the Basis B1 Band; same device, different strap).

The new Basis Peak answers pretty much all the complaints users had about its predecessor. The optical heart rate monitor now holds up better during high-intensity workouts, whereas the original version was unreliable at higher heart rate zones, with results varying from person to person. The screen is much brighter, now with a high-contract LCD display with some backlighting that results in less glare. The display is wider, but the watch itself is thinner. The strap is still swappable, as it was in the customizable Basis Carbon Steel, but the Basis Peak uses a more conventional method to secure the band to the tracker so that it never pops off. The design also makes it compatible with straps made by other companies.

Check out the latest price on the Basis Peak Activity Tracker.

Smart Blood Pressure Monitor from Xiaomi

Xiaomi ihealthChinese electronics company Xiaomi plans to launch a new device that allows a user to take his or her blood pressure and see the results on a smartphone.

According to a report:

The sphygmomanometer, or blood pressure cuff, and accompanying phone dock was made in partnership with US-based iHealth Labs.

The device will go on sale in China exclusively on Xiaomi’s official website for RMB 199 (US$32). iHealth also sells a blood pressure monitor in Apple stores, which costs RMB 799 (US$130) in China.

Xiaomi promises the blood pressure monitor will be easy to use and meets all the necessary professional medical standards and certifications. The app, customized for Xiaomi, tracks blood pressure, heart rate, average pulse and more on a real-time chart, then make recommendations for improvement.

DrinkMate – Another Breathalyzer App

DrinkmateWe’re seeing a rush of breathalyzer app devices for smartphones. One is the BACtrack Vio Smartphone Keychain Breathalyzer, which I’ve written about here and here.

Now comes DrinkMate, which is seeking crowdsourcing. Here’s a report on the device:

Washington D.C.-based Edge Tech Labs claim the “DrinkMate” is the smallest breathalyzer in the world. It measures just 1.8 inches long and weighs an almost non-existent 0.2 oz. Users connect the breathalyzer to a smartphone’s miniUSB charging port and blow into an “innovative air inlet” to get their Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) level displayed on screen almost instantly.

The DrinkMate claims to have an accuracy of +/- 0.01% BAC at a BAC of 0.02%. Additionally, the device can measure a maximum BAC level up to 0.20% BAC, which should be more than enough for anyone seriously considering a drive home after a night of heavy drinking.

Check out Amazon for more details and the latest price on the BACtrack Vio Smartphone Keychain Breathalyzer.

QardioArm Blood Pressure Monitor – Off To A Flying Start

Qardio blood pressure monitorThe new crowd-sourced Qardio Qardioarm wireless blood pressure monitor is getting some generally good reviews.

PC magazine:

Easy to use. Clear blood pressure readings. Great app. Simple, elegant design.

Not compatible with Microsoft HealthVault.

QardioArm is an at-home blood pressure monitor and app that is dead-simple to use, read, and understand over time. It’s a great device, although because it’s from a smaller company, it might not be compatible with other systems you use.

The Tom’s Guide website:

Smartwatches and fitness bands are getting better and better at tracking your heart rate and blood pressure, but they still don’t provide the type of detailed information that you get when you see your doctor. Qardio is looking to find a middle ground with the QardioArm, which is a compact, $100 blood pressure monitor that syncs with your smartphone to provide you detailed health information anywhere you go.

…Qardio’s unique line of wearable products might not be as sleek as a fitness band, but their vast health tracking capabilities could prove invaluable. The QardioArm allows adults to easily stay on top of their relatives’ blood pressure information, and the upcoming Core could prove useful in both medical and athletic environments.

And a reviewer at Amazon, where, at time of writing, the device has eight reviews and an average rating of 4.5 stars:

Bought this (invested?) in February 2014 as part of early Indiegogo crowd funding. They kept me posted and shipped it to me July 10. I have used it every day and it works great. I have periodic AFIB and the machine detects the changes in bp and AFIB every time. I’m on some bp and arithmia meds and yet try to get out and run and swim frequently. The Qardio Measurements are clearly reflecting changes in my cardiac condition through the day and weeks. Great to have all the data recorded and graphed for review with my doctor. Beautifully designed hardware and software. Really has an “Apple” look and feel experience.

Get the latest price on the Qardio Qardioarm Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor.

BACtrack Vio Smartphone Breathalyzer – Pretty Useful to Have Nearby

BACtrack VioI’ve written already about the new BACtrack Vio Smartphone Keychain Breathalyzer. Now come some external reviews.

Here’s 9to5Mac:

BACtrack makes a wide range of breathalyzers, some of them certified for law enforcement use. The Vio is the cheapest one in the company’s range, and is also its least accurate. The device is intended…to confirm a zero reading for ‘morning after’ scenarios, not to provide a precise reading of your intoxication level at anything higher than zero.

The reason for limited accuracy is the technology used in the Vio. Professional breathalyzers use fuel cell technology, and have built in pumps to ensure that all the air is removed from the unit before the breath-test begins. The Vio uses a cheaper semi-conductor based sensor, which is less accurate. This is the only way BACtrack could get the price down to $50.

National Public Radio’s The Salt blog:

It turns out that it’s a bit awkward to operate both blood-alcohol testing device and a smartphone app in a noisy bar with drunk people around you. And if you’re lending the tool to a friend who’s never used it before, it can be hard to tell if he’s blowing hard enough into the device — the likely cause of several faulty readings of 0.0 one of our friends got with the Vio.

The Vio is also a bit fussy. We got a lot of error messages. And the company recommends you use it at least once a month to keep it moist and in working order. 

…All in all, though, a key chain blood-alcohol reader is a handy tool to have around. And we can easily imagine a future where people sign their texts and emails with their BAC: “This email was composed at BAC .06.”

Maybe we should even try that here at The Salt: Over and out, with a BAC of 0.0.

Glamor magazine:

Feel weird having a, uh, breathalyzer on your person? It’s actually pretty useful to have it nearby, just in case, especially on those summer evenings when you head to happy hour (your friends can use your BACtrack too!). Granted, on a day-to-day level, it may be a little weird to have on your key chain—especially when you whip out your keys after a coffee date or a business meeting#8212; but the Vio is subtle enough that it looks like a simple USB drive.

 Check out Amazon for more details and the latest price.

Withings Pulse 02 – Complete and Elegant

Good review of the Withings Pulse O2 activity tracker at Digital Trends:

Withings Pulse 02The Pulse has become one of our favorite fitness bands thanks in a large part to Withings’ detailed, comprehensive and well-designed app Health Mate. Sure, the Pulse can be worn on the wrist or attached to clothing via the belt clip. It does a good job of recording steps and gathering heart rate and oxygen data and it tells the time. The Pulse also monitors sleep well and makes scrolling back through the previous day’s activities a dream. But when coupled with the Health Mate app and other Withings devices like a Wi-Fi scale or Bluetooth blood pressure-monitoring cuff, the Pulse O2 becomes part of one of the most complete and elegant health-tracking systems we’ve tested. And at a time when selecting the right health tracking ecosystem is arguably more important than choosing the best device, buying the Withings Pulse O2 is an easy decision.


  • Full-featured Health Mate app
  • Onboard Pulse and blood oxygen saturation sensor
  • Choice of wristband or belt clip
  • Selfie data sharing


  • No tone or vibration alarm
  • Pulse slips around in wrist strap
  • Button must be pressed to view time
  • Not waterproof

* Get the latest price on the Withings Pulse 02 activity tracker.