All of this recent news about Lindsay Lohan’s SCRAM bracelet possibly outing her as an unreformed boozebag made us wonder about the SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor) itself. How does it know the difference between spilled alcohol and alcohol that exits through the wearer’s pores? Can its user swim and shower as usual? Or would he/she need one of those annoying plastic contraptions used by people wearing plaster casts? Does the SCRAM smell alcohol? Taste alcohol? Get drunk? Make bad decisions? Use Twitter?
This week, a PR rep at SCRAM helped us demystify the device.
The easiest way to describe it is it’s like a breathalyzer for your ankle … the bracelet has a pump that goes on every 30 minutes and takes in a sample of what’s called Insensible Perspiration (that’s on all of our skin all the time — you don’t have to be “sweaty”). There is an electrochemical fuel cell inside the bracelet that is identical to the fuel cell found in a breathalyzer. That fuel cell reacts with ethanol to tell us when alcohol is present.
That is also why spilled alcohol won’t trigger the “oops, she did it again” alert the same way imbibed alcohol will.
As for swimming …
You can’t submerge the bracelet but you can and need to shower.
Phew — otherwise, there would be a lot of stinky celebrities.
And airports …
An offender can get documentation from the monitoring agency to take through security if necessary.
It is also important to note that it is not easy to scam the SCRAM. This article says that people have tried sticking lunch meat under the device to fool it. First of all, gross; second of all, the SCRAM has a much too sophisticated palate for that bologna, as explained here:
An infrared beam shoots out to your skin and then the bracelet measures the reflective quality of what bounces back. A baseline is established at installation. Any deviation indicates an obstruction has been placed between the skin and the bracelet. Most of the time we see the alcohol as well as the obstruction. Note that a tamper like that is a violation, like tampering with a urine test, and most jurisdictions apply sanctions for that.
But you’d have to be drunk to think that was a good idea anyway, right?
The device sends its findings to a SCRAM base station in Colorado, where a team of data analysts review any alerts for alcohol or potential tampering (or lunch meat or swimming). They’re the tattletales.
But perhaps the most amazing thing about the SCRAM is that it tweets! Here’s a sample string from @FreckleLeech. The device has over 3,500 followers, but curiously, it has not tweeted since alerting authorities of Lohan’s possible misbehavior. Pay close attention to the hashtags to fully appreciate this phenomenon.
On Twitter, Lohan had a sense of humor about the smarty-pants device before it betrayed her.
Then, once it turned on her, she tweeted in her own defense.
You know those people who make Twitter and Facebook pages for infants and fetuses? This is SO much more ridiculous.