Developer Workshop: Advanced Mobile Protection

Developer Workshop is a series of profiles exploring the current state of the mobile marketplace from the point of view of the software developers mapping out its future. Each profile focuses on a developer with a compelling story to tell, and offers their perspective on what the industry's doing right, what it's doing wrong and how to make it better. Check out our previous workshops on Shazam, InfoMedia, Viigo, Meet Now Live, Shortcovers, Pint Sized Mobile, Geodelic, Spark of Blue Software, Tarver Games, People Operating Technology, Booyah, Bolt Creative, Thwapr, Monkeyland Industries, Rocket Racing League and Vlingo.

This week FierceDeveloper profiles security monitoring vendor Advanced Mobile Protection.

Advanced Mobile Protection calls its new iPhone application OnCall Defender "the most important app we hope you never have to use." OnCall Defender offers smartphone owners 24/7/365 GPS-enabled security monitoring connecting directly to live professionals, local law enforcement and EMS dispatch--marketed for users with existing health conditions, travelers, students and anyone else whose lives, careers or interests put them at risk, the app combines panic alarm and medical alert systems, leveraging both satellite and cellular GPS technologies to quickly identify and track the user's whereabouts and movements until help arrives. (It also gives users 15 seconds to disarm the app in case an alert is transmitted accidentally.) AMP offers three OnCall Defender service plans: $6.99 per month for the panic alarm, $9.99 a month for the medical alert and $11.99 per month for both services.

Advanced Mobile Protection was founded by the husband and wife duo of Fred and Marsha Newman--the former serves as the startup's CEO, the latter as its president. The Newmans boast 50 years of combined experience consulting and designing security solutions for clients including Fortune 100 companies, military bases, prisons and telecommunications providers, with OnCall Defender heralding their first foray into the mobile software segment. FierceDeveloper spoke to them about migrating to mobile, navigating the complexities of the iPhone and the importance of communication.

Fred, left, and Marsha NewmanFred Newman on OnCall Defender's origins: I'm a techno dweeb. Our kids bought me an iPhone, and I thought it was the coolest piece of equipment I've ever had in my hands. It hit me that it could be an amazing security platform. 

Marsha Newman: We've been watching the growth of smartphones. People don't leave home without it. We've also analyzed the growth of crime. The statistics aren't good, especially in relation to crimes against women--every two minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted. So we entered the wireless market to develop a service that is truly needed, particularly by women.

Fred Newman on developing for the iPhone: We both have extensive backgrounds in high-tech, high-level security technology development. But when we started working on the iPhone, I was quite surprised. The platform is more intense than we were used to. My experience is with high-tech perimeter defense systems--that's pretty complex, but not compared to this software. We had to cover a lot of bases--how do you avoid false alarms? How do you improve the ease of operation? How do you adapt to Apple's protocols? It was very challenging, and very hard work.

The other challenge we faced is that when you're developing security systems for clients like military bases, you're designing for a very concise audience--the solutions are very narrowly defined. But when you're developing an app like this, you're working to reach a very broad demographic, as well as people who are usually not familiar with security technology.

Fred Newman on consumer privacy: All personal information input is optional, and only sent when an alarm is sent, because that information is critical for first responders. There are only a few mandatory fields, like name, address and phone number, as well as a safe word that must be entered in case of a false alarm. So far, we haven't seen any false alarm issues. We took great care during development to implement a solution for that.

We hold personal data on our servers, but it's not ever used. It's only there for practical purposes, like if the app must be downloaded again. We're extremely sensitive to user privacy.  

Fred Newman on the App Store approval process: OnCall Defender was approved in a week. The timeline really surprised us. We were told it could have taken weeks and weeks.

Marsha Newman: We were very mindful of the process and respectful of the requirements.

Fred Newman: Now we're sitting down and exploring the next platform. Google is aggressively pushing applications, but based on the latest data we've seen, BlackBerry still occupies the majority of the American market. So that's the big question we're facing.  

Fred Newman on advice for aspiring mobile developers: Communication is paramount. We learned many years ago that to develop technology, you need strong communication with everyone involved. You can't work with people who don't know how to communicate.

Marsha Newman: You have to do it right the first time. You can't cut corners. Even if getting it right involves extra time, engineering or coding, you have to be thorough.