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Monitor Your Kids' Driving? There May Be an App For That

New applications presented this week at AT&T Foundry are still in testing stages, but all promise to give consumers products that are easy to operate.

In the near future, parents will be able to monitor their teenagers' driving habits with their phone. Couch potatoes will be able to control their television sets with voice commands. And you'll be able to make airline reservations on several platforms.

Those, and a dozen or so more applications, were on display Wednesday at the AT&T Foundry in Palo Alto. The Network Innovative Showcase is part of AT&T's efforts to bring new ideas to the market three times faster.

Most new applications benefit individual customers, while others cater to bigger projects. The overall theme  was to deliver a product that consumers would find easy to operate and easy to maintain.

The "Driving Safety" app is sure to be a big hit. It was designed through the Foundry after an initial idea came through the Foundry innovation center in Israel last year. (AT&T also has a Foundry in Plano, Texas).

A device that plugs into the car's computer sends data to a mobile app, from which parents have the ability to monitor, in real time, how their kids are driving. The capability exists to disable calls, tests and other social networking features, discouraging distracted driving.

"It's still in the testing stages," AT&T marketing manager Bradley Beal said. "It works over the AT&T network and can also monitor their car's performance and send alerts if the oil needs changing, the tire pressure is low, or even when car insurance comes due."

Beal, who stands 6-foot-7, came to Palo Alto from the Boston area, via the MBA program at Southern California. He received his undergraduate degree in history from Colgate.

Beal was attracted by the innovative thinking and the technology at AT&T, where he started last July, just two months out of USC.

He certainly impressed AT&T executives as an intern during the summer of 2010, as he developed innovative marketing strategies to support the launch of Buzz.com, among other ventures.

He played basketball at Belmont Hill High, a private school in Belmont, MA, where tuition runs close to $37,000 a year. Beal was recruited to play basketball by Division III programs, but chose to concentrate on school.

He has also worked in the advertising, sports, legal services and higher education industries.

Another feature of "Safety Driving" is the ability to form a geo-fence, or safe zone. When the car leaves a pre-designated area, an alert would be sent. The app could also be used to thwart theft.

"This technology is open to third party developers so that it can be used in any number of ways," Beal said. "Teenagers typically pay the highest insurance premiums, but data from this device could be used by insurance companies to reward good driving habits."

Speech scientist and software engineer Charles Galles demonstrated the "Easy Remote App," which would make the remote control antiquated. It can be used to easily search programming, and change channels through voice recognition.

"This is a joint solution with AT&T," Galles said. "The idea is to make it easy to find what you're looking for. It's available to U-Verse customers today and there is more to come."

Sandro Olivieri, a Senior Marketing Manager at AT&T Foundry, spoke about the company's Alpha API platform, which created a community to help developers become aware of the tools and capabilities of the Foundry.

"We do a lot of recruiting," said Olivieri, who obtained his MBA at Pepperdine. "We listen to our executives and their goals and then work toward accomplishing them. We take inventory of different businesses  in Silicon Valley to create new products, whether for internal use or an opportunity for industry marketing."

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