Apps for a safer generation

The man behind Laguna Niguel-based Iconosys Inc. is a big proponent of safety.

So much so that when Chief Executive Wayne Irving II's daughter turned 15 a few years ago and asked about a driver's permit, Irving freaked out at the idea of his daughter texting and driving.

"I called my buddy, a technology guy, and I said, 'Can we build an app that auto answers the phone while somebody's driving?'" he said. "... And he was like, 'Yeah, we could do that.'"

The two started poking around to see if such an app already existed; they found nothing. So Irving decided they should build it.

About 60 shareholders and $1 million in capital later, Drive Reply, Iconosys' first smartphone app, launched in late 2009.

That led to the development of Trick or Tracker, the company's biggest and most popular app.

"It tethers [parent] and child together," Irving said. "Not just so parents can find their kid, but so the kid can find [his or her] parents."

Giving a child that sense of security was important to Irving, especially with the anxiety kids can have in such situations.

Plus, most kids have cell phones these days, he said.

Once downloaded to a phone, Trick or Tracker uses Guards Up, Latchkey Kid and Tether Together apps, which are installed on both the parent's and child's phones. Parents can find their kids whenever they want or set up intervals to check in on them, using a GPS service to track them.

There's the "where's my child?" button for parents to find their kid, or children can use the "where am I?," "send location" or "where's my parent?" buttons if they are lost.

The Latchkey Kid technology informs parents when their child returns home, which the company calls a handy tool for Halloween. Guards Up lets a parent know if the child is outside a specific geographical area.

Trick or Tracker has been featured on major shows like "Good Morning America" and the "Today" show.

Safety apps are the focus of Iconosys, which in September launched another app, Word Bully, to help stop cyberbullying by filtering for some 3,600 keywords, phrases and emoticons in text messages on a smartphone.

Bullying messages can be forwarded and used as proof in a case of bullying. The bully or messages from the bully can also be blocked, and parents can monitor or be alerted when a message contains bullying language.

"We spent a year researching and traveling to about 30 high schools and colleges, collecting words for the filter list, and talking to kids about bullying and what constitutes a bullying message," Irving said.

The company has developed some 700 apps, Irving said, and now has plans to launch its own app store. For now, users can go to its website, http://www.iconosys.com, to view and buy available apps and see which phone devices they are compatible with.

"Our apps are uploaded to 12 to 13 different apps markets out there, and based on the way they treat us and our experience of how these apps stores work, we felt that we could provide a resource for some of our partners," Irving said about the decision.

Partners include LG, Samsung, Motorola — big-name players in the tech world.

"Our apps are regularly featured on their newsletters to their users," Irving said. "We're listed in their top 50 apps list, they're on my speed dial, and they'll come up with a client who needs our services and we'll refer them our business and our apps."

With its 700 apps, the company averages about 12,000 to 14,000 downloads a day.

"We see that as 12,000 to 14,000 new potential users of our mini app [store] that we've developed," Irving said.

Other apps in the works include one that helps adult children keep track of their senior parents.

Another is specifically written for a tablet computer that reminds seniors to take their medication and it gives them audio and a picture of what the pill is supposed to look like, Irving said. That app will be released soon.

Each app takes various time to build. Drive Reply took about seven months, while Trick or Tracker took two months because they were able to use the Drive Reply's technology, Irving said.

Irving is no newbie to the tech world. He ran a software company, Solutions Media, in the late '90s and early 2000s that had a big hit with spinrecords.com, a multi-dimensional, on-demand media distribution system for music labels that turned their songs into flash, MP3 and other formats, depending on what they wanted.

It was such a hit that the company worked with some 750 bands and even turned it into a record label. Word spread. The company even worked with Apple on the first version of iTunes, Irving said.

The accolades followed. He was nominated for Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2000, has been in several magazines, including Irvine-based Entrepreneur magazine as one of the top Internet Entrepreneurs in the country, and was the International Entrepreneur of the Year at UC San Diego in 2000.

Unfortunately, like many dot-coms, the company busted some time in the 2000s.

Once again, his latest business, Iconosys, is hot with venture capitalists and investment bankers on his tail.

"We're poised to be a fantastic partner for a big player," Irving said. "We're committed to being the leader of building apps that provide longer use.

"Our goal is to build long-term service to them that they don't have to uninstall. If I can help one child from getting bullied, then it's worth it."

Coming up with new apps can be tough, though. So Iconosys has hosted a "Pitch That App" event twice now and has plans for more.

"It's been spectacular," Irving said. "We're constantly getting approached with app ideas."

It's a way to continue the dialogue, to keep things fresh, he added.

"There's stuff out there we're missing," he said.

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