The political debate over texting while driving is heating up and one software player is positioning itself to take full advantage. Illume Software, maker of mobile safety application iZup, added some big-name political power players to its advisory board this week, including former Senator Tom Daschle and former Nebraska Senator and Governor Bob Kerrey.
The politically-savvy move comes on the heels of President Obama’s recent executive order banning federal employees from texting while driving. More laws banning the dangerous activity are currently in the works. Six states, including California and New Jersey, already passed laws prohibiting texting while driving. President Obama’s mandate affects almost 4.5 million federal employees across the US, including the ones seen driving around every day: postal workers. Federal employees are banned from texting while driving whenever driving a federal vehicle or using a federally provided mobile device.
Illume’s flagship product, iZup, as in keep your “eyes up” on the road, is still in beta and set to be generally available on December 1.
Here’s how it works. A user downloads a GPS-based application onto a mobile device. The Java application tracks the speed of the driver’s car, and determines if the phone is moving. Once a five-mile-an-hour threshold is reached, the phone is locked into a safety mode. All text messages are stored and calls are automatically put to voicemail until the driver stops the car. The app also prohibits the user from making calls and sending text messages while the phone is in safety mode.
Initially, Illume is targeting parents with teenage drivers as their main customers. The application will be available only on smart phones to start and can be downloaded directly through the iZup website. The company is in talks with most major mobile applications stores, including those from RIM, Microsoft and Google, although no official announcements of the application’s availability have been made, yet. The company had no comment on its plans with Apple.
Mark Thirman, vice president of business development for Illume, said Illume also sees a potential distribution channel through VARs that play in the government solutions space and the enterprise mobile application markets, specifically transportation and logistics, field service, and direct store delivery.
“There’s a huge demand not only in government, but anybody with a large fleet that is worried about mitigating risk and improving the safety of their drivers and field force needs to look at this kind of product,” said Thirman. “Those kind of solutions need to be delivered as part of larger strategy and through great VARs that can provide the caring and feeding needed to enterprise customers.”
Thirman said the seeds of the iZup idea were first sowed after the teenage son of Darcy Ahl, a Connecticut housewife, experienced a near-collision after a cell phone went off unexpectedly. Ahl is now Vice President of Public Affairs for Illume, and the rest of the team is made up of Motorola and industry veterans with decades of experience in the mobile device and software space. Illume CEO Matthew Growney was co-founder and managing director of Motorola Ventures, Motorola’s venture capital and technology incubator arm. Illume was founded in 2008 and has raised $3.8 million over two rounds.
Illume also announced that Fay Vincent, former commissioner of Major League Baseball, Leo Hindery,
Jr., managing partner of InterMedia Partners, Frank Farrell, founding partner of Bentley & Farrell, and Joe Sheehan, president of Analytical Graphics, Inc. joined its advisory board.