Student-created app tracks smartphone

3 years ago

      How often do you misplace your phone? For some people, that may never happen considering how often they are texting, checking email, tweeting, taking a selfie or maybe — just maybe — using it for a phone call.
   But what if you do tend to leave your phone? How often have you left it behind at a restaurant or at home when you go out? A team of ASMSA students created a solution for that — an app that will alert you when you move a certain distance away from your phone.
   The app would be for use on smartwatches. The general public may have become more familiar with smartwatches thanks to recent ads for Samsung Galaxy Gear. Those who pay attention to tech news are familiar with earlier brands, including Pebble, which raised millions of dollars in a Kickstarter campaign in 2012.
   Imagine your smartphone reduced to the size of a watch that includes apps that operate independently on the device or in tandem with your smartphone.
   The WatchPoint app would allow a smartphone to connect with a smartwatch using Bluetooth technology. Once a person wearing a smartwatch with WatchPoint installed moved a set distance away from the phone, an alert sound would let the owner know they were leaving their phone behind. The app would allow users to set a certain distance before it issued the alert.
   The students developed the idea for the WatchPoint app during the first High School Startup Weekend held April 4-6 at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. The weekend was organized by Noble Impact, a nonprofit organization committed to engaging kindergarten through 12th-grade students through the intersection of public service and entrepreneurship.
   Startup Weekends bring together potential entrepreneurs to pitch business ideas. Teams form around the top ideas, and the teams then begin building the business, including developing a business model, a logo and market validation. The teams then pitch their business ideas to a group of judges for feedback. Some team members take their Startup Weekend ideas and turn them into true startups. Others use the weekend to make new connections and learn new skills.
   Teams from 11 schools competed in the High School Startup Weekend, with some schools bringing more than one team.
   The ASMSA team, made up of five juniors, did not start meeting until a couple of days before the event. Team members held a couple of brainstorming sessions where they shared ideas, choosing four or five they deemed worthy of further exploration. Once the event started, the team decided to focus on the WatchPoint app.
   The original idea for the app came from Jacob Johnston from Greenbrier. Johnston said he had the basic idea for the app several years ago. He said each team member added to it until finally the team had developed “this super awesome thing by Sunday. We kept patching up the holes until there were almost no holes to be filled.”
   Other team members included Kyle Adkins of Benton, Kali Fleming of McCrory, Jacob Horne of Russellville and Abbigail Stoops of Yellville.
   The team spent the weekend researching the viability of their product, developing a business plan, working on a logo and color scheme, developing social media sites for the company and more in preparation for a presentation to the judges on Sunday afternoon. Some teams had a head start on their plans before coming to the event.
   One of the biggest hurdles the team faced was proving that its product was a viable business venture. Several of the judges questioned whether smartwatches would become popular enough for WatchPoint to become viable, much less profitable.
   The team presented figures that projected smartwatch use would explode in the next five years. One study projected 35 million smartwatches in use in 2015, Adkins said, with the number topping 400 million by 2018.
   That includes Google getting into the wearables market with Motorola and LG smartwatches and talk of Apple producing an iWatch or a next-generation, wearable successor to the iPod. Now is the time to get in on the ground floor of the technology, the students said.
   “For now, we’re trying to stick to the main idea and get it done and get it out on the market so people can see who we are and what we’re trying to do before a giant, like Samsung or Apple, get ahold of it,” Johnston said. “This is the genesis of wearable technology, and we are implementing our ideas straight into the beginning.”
   For Fleming, some of the best advice came from judge Greg Scruggs, a defensive end for the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks. He said the students should keep the mindset of an underdog, she said.
   Being an ASMSA student offered the team several advantages. While other teams went home after the competition, the WatchPoint team was able to continue working on the app while living on campus. They also found lessons learned at ASMSA — such as presentation, interpersonal and time management skills — were important at the event.
   Johnston plans to take advantage of several opportunities this summer that would help the company. He planned to attend an entrepreneurial program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the School’s Out Hackathon in San Antonio, Texas; and a Pebble hackathon in Palo Alto, Calif.
   Johnston’s team placed fifth out of 78 teams at the School’s Out Hackathon, an event that focuses on software projects.
   ASMSA computer science instructors Carl Frank and Nick Seward as well as Director Corey Alderdice served as the team’s mentors at the Startup Weekend.
   Alderdice said the team’s idea is an exciting one. He compared the students’ venture to the opportunity for app developers in 2007 when the iPhone was introduced. At that time, the iPhone only did what Apple said it would do, he said. Now smartphone app development is big business.
   “It is a space that has yet to be defined. It’s neat to think about this group of students and others who are entering that space as kind of pioneers in a frontier hasn’t quite been tested or figured out just yet. What better place to start than something that’s still very malleable,? Alderdice said.


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