Breathalyzer kiosks automate alcohol test for safer driving

Sebastian Hooker, marketing director of breathalyzer kiosk company BreathAdvisor, demonstrates his company's product. (photo: Joey Ferguson)

By Joey Ferguson

Sebastian Hooker, marketing director of breathalyzer kiosk company BreathAdvisor, demonstrates his company’s product at Nerdapalooza. (photo: Joey Ferguson)[/caption]

SALT LAKE CITY — The decision on whether it’s safe to drive after a night at the bar is a potentially life-threatening one. One startup wants to make that decision easier.

Breath Advisor provides kiosks placed in bars that can perform police-grade breathalyzer checks. With $60,000 in seed investments and grants, the company wants to add the ability to call a cab if you’ve had one too many — something its competitors aren’t offering.

Utah may seem like an ironic location for a company like Breath Advisor. Since 2001, the number of alcohol-impaired driving fatalities per 100,000 population drop 14.1 percent to 1.9, according to The Century Council. Its the lowest in the U.S.

That’s good news for Utah drivers, but bad news for the Salt Lake-based startup.

“It’s one of the main reasons we want to expand so quickly,” said Sebastian Hooker, a front-end developer for the three-man team. “If we didn’t rely on the income from our current positions, it would be much easier to relocate.”

The company has six kiosks in operation in various bars and nightclubs around Utah.

The taxi integration will hopefully be launched this month, Hooker said in a phone interview.

Users pay $2 per alcohol check and $1 for each additional one. Breath Advisor is moving toward a free, advertising-based pricing model.

“Our ultimate goal is to make this a free resource for everyone,” Hooker said. “Ideally, in order to give our machine credibility and get away from the ‘bar game’ status, we just want this as free resource to call cabs from.”

The kiosk interface will be made simpler following the taxi integration.

“To the patron, the UI is the product,” Hooker said. “We’re not the ones using it. This is potentially a drunk person in a bar.”

Breath Advisor doesn’t franchise its kiosks in order to guarantee quality of the readings, compared with competitors including Minnesota-based IntoxBox and Park City-based Breath Legal, Hooker said.

“We’re trying to own a quality product that is completely controlled by Breath Advisor, and if we need to hire additional team members that’s fine,” Hooker said. “But, we don’t want to start things off and hope that people keep [the kiosks] calibrated and maintained. We want to guarantee that happens.”

Hooker says it will take a $500,000 investment in the next six to 12 months to put their plan in motion.

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