UCSB Startup Milo Sensors Launches its Wearable Blood-Alcohol Monitor

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Santa Barbara digital health tech startup Milo Sensors has just launched ION™, a wearable system for continuous alcohol consumption monitoring, for beta release. ION™ was developed for applications that benefit from continuous data feedback to the individual, information that is useful to help promote a healthy lifestyle and encourage choices. Subscriptions are $299/month, and beta tester discounts and research packages are available. Sign-up is available at ION™ website.

Stephanie Schudel, Product Manager, said of the launch, “Earlier this year, we received preliminary Beta Tester feedback, which guided us towards some of our new features, such as tamper detection and water-resistance technology. I am excited to share our new product with our existing Beta Testers, and we look forward to introducing ION™ to those who may be searching for a continuous, self-monitoring tool intended to promote a healthy lifestyle.” 

Four years ago, a team of enterprising UC Santa Barbara students came up with the idea for a wearable device that could monitor blood-alcohol content (BAC) in real time. The inventors, collectively known as Milo, took the top spot at UCSB’s 2015 Technology Management New Venture Competition, an annual showcase of talented young tech entrepreneurs. In 2019, the company was awarded a $1 Million Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which the company used to grow the team and accelerate development of their novel enzymatic sensing technology. Last spring , the company secured an additional $1 Million, which supported further product development and clinical research to independently validate sensor performance. 

The company has ambitious aspirations for the future. CEO Bob Lansdorp (PhD '15) explains, “I believe that wearable alcohol sensor technology will one day be a key pillar of support and accountability by encouraging users to make good choices, which may help 15 million individuals currently in recovery from an alcohol use disorder to continue living well.” Milo Sensors and Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation are working toward a partnership and also currently collaborating to integrate wearable alcohol sensing technology to promote healthy living.

Milo Sensors had previously launched a crowdfunding campaign in 2017. Although the campaign was over-subscribed within a day of launch, and was by all metrics a marketing success, the company refunded backers in 2018. Lansdorp said of the crowdfunding campaign, “As a start-up company, it was an incredibly difficult decision to turn away more than $50,000 of pre-orders, but ultimately I think our pivot was the best decision for the company. I am incredibly proud of our new direction: ION™ is more than just a party-gag that you pull out of the drawer for special occasions. I believe that ION™ will provide a much-needed way to promote, track, and encourage choices, which, as part of a healthy lifestyle, may help millions of people live well.”

The wearable ION blood-alcohol-level detector.

The wearable ION blood-alcohol-level detector.