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Need to Caffeinate? There's an App for That!

February 14, 2012

caffeinezoneApparently, there are people who need to be reminded when to take a coffee break. Now there's an app for that. Caffeine Zone, a new app created by a pair of researchers at Penn State, keeps track of your caffeine level and tells you when you need to drink more coffee to stay in the zone.

Now, I don't know about you, but I tend to make myself a coffee when I feel like having a coffee (in fact, I just made one and it's delightful!). I also tend not to pay a whole lot of attention to how much caffeine I'm drinking, and almost never get the jitters or have trouble sleeping. I do notice, on the other hand, when I'm hitting a wall and having trouble with my focus. That's usually when I take a break for coffee. Even with all of that, I still think this app is a pretty cool toy, and if I had an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch, I'd so be downloading this sucker right now.

Here's the lowdown:

Using data and research from the Office of Navy Research, Frank Ritter and his associate developed a little app that tracks your caffeine level and displays it for you in a nice little chart. According to their research, most regular cofffee drinkers are "in the zone" -- i.e., most alert and productive -- when they have between 200 and 400 mg of caffeine circulating in their blood. While everybody metabolizes coffee differently, scientists have managed to come up with average figures for the half-life of caffeine in your system. The app uses that information along with user-entered data on their caffeine consumption to generate a nifty chart that lets you see when you're in the zone and when you're not.

The Caffeine Zone is also useful on the other end of the day, when you want to get to sleep. It figures that you'll have trouble sleeping if you have more than 100 mg caffeine circulating, so you can time your coffee consumption to coincide with your caffeine levels.

If that were all Caffeine Zone did, it would still be a pretty neat app, but it has a couple of features that make it even more fun -- alarms and notifications!

To wit: when you enter that quad espresso you're about to drink, Caffeine Zone projects how long it will take your body to metabolize the caffeine. If it notes that you'll have more than 100 mg of caffeine in your bloodstream at bedtime (you get to enter your bedtime, natch), it pops up a little warning screen to let you know that you might have trouble sleeping if you drink that shot right now. It's kinda like having a bud that will look at the cup in your hand and ask, "Dude, are you sure you want to drink that now?"

Even better, it keeps track of the estimated caffeine level and pops up an alert to let you know when you're in danger of falling out of the productive zone. Again, you get to customize your own personal productivity zone, and let the app know when you want to be alerted that it's time to take a coffee break.

It comes with three pre-set entries -- coffee, tea and caffeine gum -- but you can add your own custom profiles for the coffee, soda and other caffeinated products you consume.

The Caffeine Zone app is available at the iTunes store for $.99 without ads, or free if you're willing to put up with advertising. If any of you caffeine jockeys decide it's worth a buck to check it out, let me know. I'd love to do some follow-up research to see how you use it and what you think.






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