Emmanuel Agu, an associate professor of computer science at Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, is leading a team of researchers that is developing a smartphone app that will alert people when they have had too much to drink in order to drive. The app determines the level of inebriation by monitoring how the user walks.
The team estimates that the new app accurately predicts a person’s blood alcohol level 90 percent of the time. The AlcoGait app works in the background of a person’s smartphone continually monitoring changes in the walking behavior of the user. When the app detects a certain level of inebriation, it automatically sends a text message to the user. The app works if the user is holding the smartphone or if it is in the user’s pocket.
Dr. Agu says that when the app is ready for commercialization, it may be linked to a person’s automobile and not allow the user to turn on the ignition. Or it may automatically provide a link to taxi or Uber services.
“When people are drinking, they often don’t realize when they are over the legal limit, and that’s when they can get into trouble,” Dr. Agu said. “If people had this hard data in front of them, I think many more would say it’s not worth the risk to get behind the wheel.”
Dr. Agu is a graduate of the University of Benin in Nigeria, where he majored in electrical and electronic engineering. He holds a master’s degree and a Ph.D. in electrical and computer engineering from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.