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Fogo is the smart, Swiss Army knife of flashlights

There are plenty of mundane, everyday products that have little business being "smart," and at face value, the humble flashlight sounds like one of them. Ordinarily, the term "smart flashlight" would make me cringe as much as the next person, but having seen the Fogo flashlight first-hand, I'm sold. Or rather, I would be if I weren't the opposite of an outdoorsman. The folks behind Fogo call it a combination of rugged and waterproof flashlight, GPS receiver and walkie-talkie, but that's actually a simplistic description, since it's much more than an amalgam of three existing products.

The walkie-talkie aspect of the device isn't like your traditional two-way radio, for example. To be as efficient as possible, it transmits voice messages to other Fogos as needed, rather than leaving a radio channel open constantly. You can also send text-based messages, and data such as GPS locations to friends' devices via the simple LCD and three-button interface. You can adjust the brightness of the flashlight manually through this menu, but it can also do that itself, somewhat intelligently. Say you're on full power and pointing the beam straight ahead. Angle the flashlight toward the ground under your feet and the built-in accelerometer will automatically dim the beam so reflected light doesn't overstimulate your rods and cones. This accelerometer can also detect if you've had a nasty fall, and alert nearby Fogos to your plight. Your hiking buddies can then set about finding you, with the beam of their flashlights staying constant when they're headed in the right direction, and blinking when they're straying off-course.

In addition to all the neat features the Fogo has as standard, including the ability to give power to any other device via USB, the butt of the flashlight is built to accept peripherals called "smart caps." These are still under development, but on the to-do list are a dive computer, avalanche beacon, satellite phone, rangefinder and perhaps even a stun gun in the distant future, if there's demand for it. Adding features isn't entirely reliant on supplemental hardware, though. Fogo has its own simple OS that will be open to developers so they can build apps that run on the flashlight. Apps that currently reside on the prototype device include a Morse code translator that turns messages into pulses of light, and Tetris, which you play on the small LCD display.

Fogo isn't the type of device that needs a smartphone connection to work, but via Bluetooth, it can send data to your iPhone. If you've completed a particularly impressive trek, for example, you can get at all kinds of recorded data and post it to your favorite boasting platform. Between smart caps, the Fogo OS and smartphone connectivity, the potential for adding value is mighty high. Fogo will be hitting Kickstarter sometime next week, and the base model will require a pledge of roughly $200. Delivery is expected to be completed in early summer, as the product is at the final prototype stage already. As mentioned, smart caps will arrive slightly later, and it's thought that the first, and most important to outdoorsy types, will be available before the end of the year.