Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Local Technology: IMOK

Note: Westport is an amazing place. There's a huge amount of creativity in our town. This is the first of a series of columns that highlights what Westport residents are doing in technology. If you're involved in technology — whether it be a startup or a large corporation — contact me about a possible story.

Apple changed the landscape of what a phone is when it released the original iPhone. Although there were other phones that did other things, most notably the BlackBerry, the iPhone brought a whole world of applications (called simply "apps"), functions and a decent Web browser to a portable phone. These new phones are typically called "smartphones."

While smartphones typically started with adults, they are becoming more popular with children. And, with parents' eternal desire to keep their children safe, both parents and children benefit when a smartphone addresses the desires of both constituents.

One iPhone app created by Westport resident Matt Bromberg called IMOK attempts to address the needs of both parents and children.

In essence, IMOK encourages children to check in on their phone to let their parents know where they are and who they're with. IMOK allows this checking-in without the painfully embarrassing phone call home.

"By sharing their location, taking pictures, tagging friends, and telling you what's up, your kids earn points that can be exchanged for things you've agreed to, like spending money or special privileges," Bromberg said. "Getting a text from your kids is fine. But all parents would like to know more about where their children are, who they're with, and what they're doing. By incentivizing kids to share more, the app turns something that was difficult and contentious into a game."

When asked about how he got into this business, Bromberg said: "When I got out of law school, I knew I didn't want to be a lawyer, so I took a sales job at an online business. Later, I spent a bunch of years at AOL in its heyday, and that excitement kind of sealed it for me."

The team Bromberg put together for this project consists of people he's worked with over the years. He credits his wife and supportive family as being instrumental in making IMOK happen.

The project has been funded by investors, including some of his own money.

The app is still in beta (pre-release), but Bromberg encourages everyone to visit www.imok.com to follow the development and release of the software. Maybe it will even help open the lines of communication between parents and children.

Mark Mathias, a 30-plus year veteran of information technology and a resident of Westport, Connecticut, was named by Computerworld magazine to their inaugural list of “Premier 100 IT Leaders.” This column was originally published in the Westport News on Wednesday 29 June 2011.

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