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The Floome smartphone breathalyzer will tell you when it's time to call a cab

Are you okay to drive, or should you take a cab? The Floome will tell you.

It can be awkward to try and convince a friend that they shouldn't be driving, but it's a situation that many of us find ourselves in: It's late on a Friday night, you've been out with coworkers for a few hours, and then Steve from accounting unevenly rises and declares it's time for him to head home. "Are you okay to drive?" someone asks, and he says he's fine--but it also took him several minutes to find his keys in his jacket pocket. Maybe he's just tired, maybe he's past his limit, but there's no real way for you to determine whether or not you should insist on calling him a cab.

Except, of course, now there is.

A group of award winning technologists and industrial designers at 2045Tech have developed an appcessory prototype for a highly accurate smartphone breathalyzer called Floome (funding through June 8). A pocket-sized device with a companion app, the Floome is designed to be easy to carry and never needs charging. The streamlined Floome plugs directly into the headphone jack on any iOS, Android, or Windows Phone device. From there, the user blows into the Floome's removable, cleanable mouthpiece and the device then uses fuel cell sensors (like the ones found in professional breathalyzers) to detect ethanol molecules.

Using information on the volume of breath, Floome is then able to provide a precise blood alcohol content (BAC)--and some additional useful information such as how long to wait before you can retest, and presumably, drive; an alarm to remind you when to retest; and an option to call a taxi. Floome can also show you graphs of your previous results, and will let you take a photo and share your tests via social media (should you feel the need to do so).

If you share additional information with Floome, such as your height, weight, and gender, the app will "learn" how each user metabolizes alcohol in order to provide more precise calculations on how long your "recovery" time is--that is, how long until you're safe to drive. Lab tests show that the deviation between the Floome measurements and those of professional breathalyzers is less than 10 percent.

The Floome is being offered in five colors--black, white, purple, blue, and gemstone--and you can pledge $65 for a black model for a hoped-for October delivery. If it comes to market in the fall, it will retail for $80.

Confidence level

The real question here is: will it succeed? I'm skeptical. The Floome isn't the first smartphone breathalyzer we've seen lately (that would be the Breathometer), but if it's the first device to make it to market, it should get a great deal of attention. That is, if it can find enough backers first. With less than a week to go in its Indiegogo campaign, Floome still needs to raise about $125,000--roughly 92 percent of its goal--which may prove to be a bigger challenge than convincing Steve from accounting to take that cab.

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