Illume’s iZUP Mobile App Padlocks Cell Phones to Eliminate the Temptation to Talk or Text While Driving

5/17/10Follow @xconomy

If you’ve been paying attention to news headlines, consumer safety reports, and state laws, you know that you shouldn’t be talking or texting on your cell phone while driving. But sometimes the temptation to stay off your phone is just too strong, especially when it rings or beeps with incoming calls or texts.

And now, there’s an app for that. It’s called iZUP (sounds like “eyes up”), from Newton, MA-based Illume Software, and it is like a virtual padlock for your mobile. The application harnesses GPS technology so that when you’re traveling faster than 5 miles per hour, your phone sends incoming calls to voicemail and prevents you from texting or making outgoing calls(there are a few exceptions, but more on that in a bit).

“Technology got us into this challenge, and technology has the chance to get us out of this challenge,” says Illume CEO Daniel Ross, who joined the company in January.

So far there’s been no shortage of opinions about texting or talking while behind the wheel, and no shortage of attempts at eliminating cell phone distractions for drivers, he says. Hardware products that shut down phones in cars are expensive, and cell phone carriers have viewed technologies that try to block driver cell phone usage at the network level as invasive, Ross says. In the meantime, consumers have long looked to Bluetooth technologies that allow them chat hands free, or software that translates voice to text, as safe (or at least safer) ways to talk and text while driving.

But recent consumer safety reports have shown that hands-free talking while driving demands multi-tasking, impairing driver performance and making it difficult for drivers to react quickly. So by far the safest way to deal with your phone while driving is to not use it. For Illume, this means nipping the temptation in the bud by preventing audible alerts from coming through while users are moving. The app is always running, so consumers don’t have to remember to turn their phones off or silence their ringers.

The idea came in 2006 from Darcy Ahl, now Illume’s VP of public affairs, who was a passenger as her teenage son was driving when both of their cell phones went off—causing them to swerve across a stretch of Connecticut’s I-95 highway. (Having grown up a few minutes from the heavily trafficked interstate, I know firsthand this is one of the last places on Earth you want to be caught off guard as a driver.) Luckily neither mother nor son was hurt, but the experience … Next Page »

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