Can you conduct alcohol testing on your smartphone?

Can a breathalyser that uses your smartphone really provide an accurate alcohol testing result? Credit Rodion Kutsaev

If you’re a regular reader of our blogs, you’ll know that you need to be careful when relying on inexpensive personal breathalysers. If you use them to determine your blood alcohol level and then rely on this reading to drive or work safely, or not fall foul of alcohol testing, you could be setting yourself up for a fall. That’s because cheaper personal breathalysers can be wildly inaccurate and should be used as a guide at best.

So, imagine our concern when we read about the latest personal breathalysers that pair with your smartphone.

The information was presented recently in the Mirage News. The article highlighted a new study from a School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, which compared the accuracy of six personal breathalysers that are used with smartphones against higher quality alcohol testing devices, similar to those used by the police and workplace drug testing firms.

To conduct the study, researchers used 20 moderate drinkers between the ages of 21 and 39. These people were asked to drink a prescribed amount of alcohol over a 70-minute period, with the aim of reaching a blood alcohol level (BAC) of around 0.10%. Participants regularly had their BAC tested, using the different smartphone devices and the high quality alcohol testing devices. In addition, a blood test was conducted after the 70 minutes to provide an accurate BAC level.

The result? All smartphone devices underestimated BAC by more than 0.01% (the legal level in Australia for most drivers is 0.05%). While some of the devices were more consistently accurate than others, none were on the mark and some were very misleading in providing accuracy.

“Some may use smartphone breathalysers to see if they are over the legal driving limit. If these devices lead people to incorrectly believe their blood alcohol content is low enough to drive safely, they endanger not only themselves, but everyone else on the road or in the car,” said lead investigator M. Kit Delgado, MD, MS, an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine and Epidemiology at Penn, in the article.

It’s worth pointing out that no portable breathalyser should be relied on to a provide a 100% accurate alcohol testing reading. Even those used by the police and organisations like us. That’s why follow-up testing is always carried out for anyone who provides a positive alcohol testing result.

So, do personal breathalysers serve a purpose? Yes, we believe they do, but only if used as a guide and only if you use one that is reasonably accurate. A device like the Drager Alcotest 3820. The Drager Alcotest 3820 is what is known as a fuel cell breathalyser. Fuel cell breathalysers are more accurate alcohol testing devices, which is why they are used by police forces and workplace alcohol testing firms to provide preliminary alcohol testing results.

Integrity Sampling sells the Drager Alcotest 3820 on our website. At a very affordable price of $295 including free shipping, we believe it’s an investment that is very beneficial and perhaps a lifesaver.


Can a breathalyser that uses your smartphone really provide an accurate alcohol testing result? Credit Rodion Kutsaev

By Michael

Michael is the founder of Integrity Sampling and is responsible for overseeing all national operations. He is based at Integrity Sampling's head office in Melbourne and is also responsible for the co-ordination of drug and alcohol testing within Victoria, assisting in the implementation of drug and alcohol (fit for work) policies and the presentation of drug and alcohol education and awareness programs. You can connect with Michael Wheeldon on LinkedIn

Leave a comment