CEO, Dr. Mike Lynn Shares His Perspectives on Creating a Cannabis Breathalyzer that Is Easy-to-Use
Hound Labs needed to shrink a piece of lab equipment about the size of a pony into a carrying case, maintain ultra-sensitivity, and ensure the solution was easy to use.
I have spent a lot of time talking about the science behind the HOUND® MARIJUANA BREATHALYZER, so it’s time to shift to talk about the features that we had to build to make our breathalyzer intuitive and easy to use. Many people know that I have spent 25 years as an E.R. physician but most do not know how these years in medicine influenced the development of our solution.
Each shift I spend in the hospital, I use medical products. Some are brilliantly simple (like the sleek pulse oximeter that I slip on a patient’s finger), and some are frustratingly cumbersome (like the medical records system I am required to use throughout my shift). Easy-to-use products, like the pulse oximeter, inspired me to ensure our product and engineering teams built an easy-to-use solution that could be administered with just a few simple steps. Making a useful cannabis breathalyzer has proven to be about so much more than just the science of testing for recent cannabis use.
From the Lab to the Local Employer
I want to take a minute to set the stage. Before we created the HOUND® BREATHALYZER, the only way to test breath for THC (the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis) was for a lab technician or researcher to capture the breath of someone smoking cannabis. Next, a highly trained scientist had to extract a small quantity of the breath sample. Finally, that scientist had to analyze the sample on a mass spectrometer – a multi-million-dollar piece of laboratory equipment the size of table and the weight of a small pony (several hundred pounds). Mass spectrometers are extremely complicated to use effectively and require extensive training and maintenance. The complexity and expense of this type of testing was just not practical, affordable, or efficient. So, the Hound Labs development team needed to figure out how to shrink the extremely sensitive processing capabilities to fit inside a portable case and also make it easy to use while also ensuring accuracy.
3 Steps…Not 300
Based on my years of experience practicing medicine, I knew that our solution must be easy to use and require very little training. Even if we built a portable solution that could be carried, if it was too complicated to administer, very few folks would use our solution.
The key was to reduce the complicated steps required in a lab to about 3 steps. Needless to say, this was a challenge – almost as much of a challenge as the underlying ultra-sensitive science. It was worth the years of innovation, though, because the feedback has been tremendously positive. It takes a matter of minutes to learn how to administer the HOUND BREATHALYZER because the team used technology and engineering to automate the steps and eliminate as much potential for human error as possible. One of my colleagues recently told me that using the HOUND BREATHALYZER was about as easy as making coffee in his automated coffee maker.
Automation, Automation, Automation
The way to reduce the possibility of human error was to automate as many steps as feasible. So, that’s what our team did. We automated more than I can cover in this blog, but I will highlight a few key innovations.
- We automated the breath sampling process, ensuring the pumps that aid the breath collection automatically stop when a sufficient sample is captured.
- A simple push of a button starts the automated processing of the sample.
- When processing completes, the system automatically stops and displays the results on the screen.
The automation of the processing means the results are “instrument read,” which eliminates the need for a human to interpret the data and draw a conclusion. No subjectivity is required because the administrator does not determine whether the sample is negative or positive.
We automated the calibration of the HOUND MARIJUANA BREATHALYZER. Each time an administrator uses a disposable cartridge, the unit calibrates automatically, making it easy to ensure accuracy and optimal performance. There is no need to remember to calibrate the system or to follow a long list of calibration steps.
Confidence in the Era of Cannabis Legalization
In order for our solution to be successful, I knew that employers, employees, law enforcement, and community members all needed to have confidence in the breath sampling and the processing required to measure only recent cannabis use in breath. For example, the handheld will not capture breath if a cartridge has already been used. Lights also automatically indicate progress towards a sufficient breath sample. Finally, the system automatically saves a portion of the breath sample for confirmatory testing, if necessary.
Innovation. Innovation. Innovation.
I am fortunate to work with so many smart and creative people. They have been innovating tirelessly to develop a solution to balance SAFETY and FAIRNESS™ and the result is the HOUND MARIJUANA BREATHALYZER – an exquisitely sensitive solution for measuring THC in breath and one that it also exceptionally easy to use.