Speedbump App Alerts Parents To Teen Speeding, But Keeps Mum on Good Behavior

3/17/11Follow @xconomy

If teen drivers were given the choice between the thrill of speeding or the freedom from parents knowing their every whereabouts, they’d choose the latter. Or at least that’s the assumption that Lunenberg, MA-based father-son startup WirelessESP is betting on with its new mobile app, Speedbump.

“It sets up that psychological game,” says Dick Fischer, the father. “Their privacy is more important to them than speeding.”

The idea for the Android app came from a state science fair project, where Jon Fischer, now a senior at Champlain College in Vermont, developed a hardware system for monitoring and alerting parents to teen driving speed. “We kind of thought hardware wasn’t the right way to go about it—once smartphones came into prominence, we realized this was the platform,” the younger Fischer says.

The Speedbump app essentially rewards good driving behavior and alerts parents to the bad, so they can bring it up with kids for discussion later. Parents can use the Speedbump website to configure speed limits for teen drivers on highways, secondary roads, and back roads. The application uses patent-pending technology for determining what type of road you’re driving on, to flag if a driver has busted a certain speed limit. It then app talks to the server, maps where the violation occurred, and sends an alert to parents via text message, says Jon Fischer, who’s working on the startup while at school. If a driver is within the set speed limits, the parent won’t receive any notification at all, and teens can keep their whereabouts a bit more wrapped up.

“Its just mainly so they can know where they were in real time, and have a discussion later,” he says. “We keep the privacy on a pretty good level.”

The Speedbump app can pull data from the road every minute or so, and adjust if the battery is quickly draining, Jon Fischer says. But parents can set the app to an ad hoc mode to only pull driver data when they request it.

The app also monitors another peril of teen driving that lawmakers are increasingly cracking down on—texting and talking while on the road. Other apps, like iZup from Newton, MA-based Illume Software, shut down distracted driving by locking up teen phones completely. Speedbump isn’t looking to attack driving delinquencies on the spot, but simply to inform parents about them.

The Android app and Speedbump dashboard service go for $9.99 per month per driver. WirelessESP is bootstrapping at present, but aims to raise somewhere between $1 million and $1.5 million down the line to better scale. The startup is looking to distribute its service through parent-teacher associations and schools to amp up usage, and plans to offer commissions to the groups for selling the product. It’s been test-driving Speedbump with a group of roughly 30 parents over the last eight months, and will demo the technology at the CTIA Wireless trade show in Florida next week.

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