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

5/17/10Follow @xconomy

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pushed Ahl to wonder if it could have been prevented with technology. She sought out some people in the mobile technology she knew from her job at an executive search firm, and Illume launched in 2008. (Ahl originally started the company under the name CellBlock Telecommunications.)

“It started from a parent’s concern for her son’s safety as a new driver,” Ross says.

As a result, iZUP is widely targeted to parents who want to keep tabs on their newly licensed teenagers, and to those managing commercial fleets of drivers, such as utility companies. It’s also gaining traction among individuals who want to monitor themselves, as more and more companies are coming out with policies that dictate they terminate employees who are caught on their cell phones while driving.

IZUP works on Microsoft’s Windows Mobile system, RIM’s BlackBerry phones, and Google’s Android platforms. Once Apple comes out with the version of its iPhone that allows the running of background applications and multi-tasking, iZUP will hit that platform, too (that’s expected sometime this summer). To keep in line with its young-driver target, Illume’s app will also soon be available on Qualcomm’s Brew mobile phone platform, which isn’t a smart phone but is heavily oriented around texting, and widely attractive to teens, Ross says.

“It’s really critical that we’re not being selective, saying you get to be safer, and you don’t,” Ross says of the company’s deployment to a slew of mobile platforms.

Auto insurance company Nationwide recently announced it would offer a financial incentive for customers who have a solution for preventing driver distraction, such as the Illume system, Ross says. They’re offering an annual discount ranging from 3 percent to 5 percent of a family policy. Nationally, such a policy averages about $2,400, but is closer to $4,000 or higher in the New England area, he says, meaning the discount could save families anywhere from about $70 to $200, a year.

IZUP costs $4.95 a month or $49.95 a year for individuals, and $9.95 a month or $79.95 for a family of five—meaning customers will roughly break even on the low end of the insurance spectrum and come out on top with the potential $200-a-year insurance discount, and be far safer in the bargain, Ross says. There are less than 10,000 paying users for the app, which hit the market in December 2009, though he didn’t give me an exact sales figure.

So what about those emergencies when you just have to use your phone while driving? Well, Illume has accounted for those in its technology. The app allows for three “white-listed” numbers, which can … Next Page »

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