By: Jaci VanHeest, University of Connecticut

SnowboardingAs Fitbits and other wearable activity monitors change how regular people exercise and track their activity, they’re having similar effects on how Olympians train and recover between workouts.

It’s long been common for coaches to use video cameras to show athletes what their form and movements look like, to track progress, and to fine-tune exactly the right technique for, say, taking off for a jump or landing after a particular trick. But those only show what’s going on from the outside.

Now, wearables, biometrics and apps analyzing their data are becoming much more common for athletes at all levels, giving indications of what’s going on inside an athlete’s body. I have worked as a sport physiologist with elite athletes for two decades, including with USA Swimming and U.S. Figure Skating; there’s not yet much research about the results in figure skating, but wearables have helped coaches, athletes and sport scientists in other sports like swimming, cycling, soccer and volleyball.


The system consists of a temporary tattoo (left) and a circuit board (right).Image: UC San Diego

The system consists of a temporary tattoo (left) and a circuit board (right).
Image: UC San Diego

A team of researchers form the University of California, San Diego has developed a flexible, wearable sensor that can accurately measure a person’s blood alcohol level from sweat and transmit the results wirelessly in real time.

The new development provides a continuous, non-invasive alternative to current alcohol level detection methods. Researchers state it also provides a more accurate reading than breathalyzers.

The device consists of a temporary tattoo, which adheres to the skin, induces sweat, and electrochemically detects alcohol levels. The sensor also incorporates a portable, flexible electronic circuit board, which connects to the tattoo and wirelessly communicates the information.

“Lots of accidents on the road are caused by drunk driving,” says Joseph Wang, ECS member and co-author of the study. “This technology provides an accurate, convenient and quick way to monitor alcohol consumption to help prevent people from driving while intoxicated.”

In addition to applications in law enforcement and medicine, Wang believes this device could potentially be integrated with a car’s alcohol ignition interlocks, or used by people to check their own alcohol level before getting behind the wheel.