According to the results of a recent study by Wayne State University in Detroit, teenagers and 20-somethings are considerably better at texting while they drive than older adults are. But that, no doubt, is little consolation for parents who have lost kids to the tragic consequences of texting while driving. Wouldn’t it be great if there was an app that could help prevent those tragedies?
Turns out, there is. SourceRaven, a software design, development and consulting company in Garland, Texas, has released TextBuster, an app that shuts off a phone’s text and email capability, along with Internet access, when a vehicle’s engine is running. It works by sending a blocking signal via Bluetooth to the phone whenever the phone is in the vehicle, without affecting other Bluetooth functionality. SourceRaven is marketing TextBuster not only to parents, but to transport fleet managers as a safety mechanism. According to SourceRaven, the app also enables parents and fleet managers to monitor the speed and location of the vehicle.
I had the opportunity to discuss the app in a recent email interview with Andrew Watts, president and EVP of sales at SourceRaven, who said the project took 12 months to complete, from concept inception to product release. He said the SourceRaven team had been tasked with creating the app about 18 months ago by Brett Barta, CEO of Access 2 Communications, a manufacturer of vehicle remote starters and security systems.
“At the time, most texting and driving apps only used geo-location to track movement on a vehicle and none were very accurate,” Watts said. “We saw this as an opportunity to develop an app that would still block the user's ability to text, email or access the Internet while their vehicle was had the engine running. The app also locks the main screen stopping the user accessing and using the phone with the exception of sending or receiving phone calls.”
Watts went on to elaborate on the technology hurdles they had to overcome to bring TextBuster to market.
“The biggest challenge was developing the technology that allowed Bluetooth to sync with multiple devices,” he said. “The other hurdle was developing the technology that would lock the device but still allow the user to make and receive phone calls.”
I asked Watts if it would be possible for a tech-savvy teen to disable TextBuster, and he said the app’s password protection would prevent that.
“So as long as the teen does not have the password, they cannot log in to deactivate the TextBuster app,” he said. “Further, if a user on the account tampers with or tries to remove the application from their device, the TextBuster app sends an SMS alert to the account manager.”
Finally, I asked Watts what features will be included in future versions of TextBuster that are not included in this one. He was clearly reluctant to reveal too much.
“We have received excellent suggestions and feedback from users that we are considering implementing in 2015, ”Watts said. “The most opportunity lies in developing additional car safety features for the TextBuster app.”
A contributing writer on IT management and career topics with IT Business Edge since 2009, Don Tennant began his technology journalism career in 1990 in Hong Kong, where he served as editor of the Hong Kong edition of Computerworld. After returning to the U.S. in 2000, he became Editor in Chief of the U.S. edition of Computerworld, and later assumed the editorial directorship of Computerworld and InfoWorld. Don was presented with the 2007 Timothy White Award for Editorial Integrity by American Business Media, and he is a recipient of the Jesse H. Neal National Business Journalism Award for editorial excellence in news coverage. Follow him on Twitter @dontennant.