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What it does: automatically silences phones in class or at work

Photo by Tina Wallace

Two students have found the solution to ringing phones in the classroom thanks to the new app Elevate.

While they have been in school, they have also been developing an Android app that makes devices “contextually aware,” allowing users to change their device’s settings based on location. The app automatically changes the phone’s settings, ranging from ringtone to volume to wallpapers, as the user comes and goes between class, work, or home.

The app’s developers, James Don-Carolis, a master’s student in biomechanics at the Ottawa-Carleton Institute of Biology, and Hanna Farah, a PhD candidate in software engineering at the U of O, don’t have a minute to lose.

“I tell people, it’s like trying to do two full-time jobs at once,” Don-Carolis said. “There is a reason why start-up companies are so rarely successful. You have to give everything you have.”

Don-Carolis and Farah said they recognized that phones and tablets have various uses depending on the user’s activities and surroundings, so they tried to diminish their limitations.

“(The app) means a lot of different things to different people,” Don-Carolis said. “For some people, it’s a way to silence their phone automatically when they enter a class. For others, it’s a way to automatically send a text message to whoever they are going home to, saying they left work and will be back soon.”

Elevate is currently in a closed testing phase, so the developers have been getting user feedback in order to tailor the app to the demands of their customers.

“We want to work closely with our user base and follow whatever direction they offer. We’re asking people to tell us what they want to see next,” Don-Carolis said.

He said the consumer-led approach allows them to let the app go where users want it to, instead of imposing a particular development plan on their product.

“Based on consumers’ feedback, we can take it in the direction they need and solve the problems they have,” said Farah.

The project was funded with help from the Lead to Win program, run by Carleton University, and Invest Ottawa, a government program that supports local businesses, offering them resources and support.

“What’s neat about the mobile application environment is that with a good idea and some technical expertise, for very little money you can build something that is largely successful,” said Don-Carolis.

The app’s development was done independently from the inventors’ studies and they said the project was, in a way, a learning process.

“I had the background in the field but there was a lot to learn as we were doing it,” Farah said. “We had to learn from the ground up. We weren’t experts in android development, so every time we encountered a problem, we had to research.”

Don-Carolis said the app has already been getting a lot of attention, even before appearing on the android market.  Elevate will be available for free on Google Play April 10.