Catching bad drivers with your iPhone

Dangerous drivers are getting their just desserts thanks to a new iPhone application developed in Israel that enables users to record and report offensive driving. Photo by AbirSultan/Flash 90. Zemingo hopes its technology will reduce the number of road accidents …

Catching bad drivers with your iPhone

Dangerous drivers are getting their just desserts thanks to a new iPhone application developed in Israel that enables users to record and report offensive driving.

Car crash
Photo by AbirSultan/Flash 90.
Zemingo hopes its technology will reduce the number of road accidents caused by bad driving.

How many times have you driven along the highway, only to be cut off by some rude speeder who seems determined to take others along when s/he inevitably crashes? At moments like these, you might wish you could turn on a siren, stop the offender and write a ticket just like the police can do.

Well, thanks to Israeli cell phone application developer Zemingo, dangerous drivers are now getting their just desserts. Drivers who install the Traffic Observer app on their iPhones will be able to record and report offensive road behavior, take video of the obnoxious actions of errant drivers and upload the footage to their country’s National Road Safety Committee.

Tens of thousands of people have downloaded and installed the app, says Tsiki Naftaly, one of Zemingo’s founders and head of marketing and business development. “In the short time the app has been available for download in the iPhone App Store, dozens of bad drivers have been caught by the authorities after people filmed their violations.”

Stressing customer service

Traffic Observer is one of a plethora of apps made by Zemingo, a Tel Aviv-based firm that has won numerous bids in tenders put out by a variety of companies.

“We wrote an app for a very large maker of camera surveillance systems to allow users to observe the view from the cameras on their iPhones and iPads,” Naftaly tells ISRAEL21c. “To get that contract, we had to go head-to-head with some of the biggest and best companies in the US, as the tender generated a great deal of interest because it was a high profile app.”

The company picked Zemingo, says Naftaly, based not only on its work but also on its emphasis on customer service.

“I learned what customer service was all about when I was a pilot in the US for several years, ferrying around top executives,” he says. These execs were kind enough to share their corporate philosophies with him, and Naftaly noticed that putting a priority on customer service was a feature of the most successful businesses. It was a lesson he took to heart and put to good use in Zemingo.

The firm was created by Naftaly and partner Maya Zalcberg in 2008. Zemingo spent its first year building apps for clients that sold them under their own brand names.

From fly-swatting to finance

“Our first Zemingo-labeled app came out in June 2009, and it was called ‘Obama vs. Fly’ (see video below) – a tribute to the story of President Obama’s fly-swatting during a TV interview,” Naftaly says.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVupVvPltV0

Most of the company’s products are for the iPhone, but Zemingo writes apps for other cell phone platforms as well, with apps for recipes, games, healthcare, finances and business.

One thing that separates Zemingo from other companies in the field, says Naftaly, is its commitment to “the iPhone way,” the unique approach Apple takes to the end-user experience.

“In iPhone apps, the difference between a pedestrian application and a great application centers on adopting Apple’s user interface philosophy. We caught this early on, and it really is surprising how many apps out there haven’t realized this.”

The best is yet to come for this young Israeli company, Naftaly says. “We far outpaced our expected sales for 2010, and we expect 2011 to be even better.”

In fact, he says, the company has already received a buyout offer “that we are probably going to turn down. We think we can triple our sales next year.” The company is self-financed — Naftaly and Zalcberg were the original investors — and is currently turning a profit.

‘We can’t afford to make mistakes’

One of the reasons the company is succeeding beyond expectations, according to Naftaly, is the quality of its staff of eight programmers. In its last hiring round, Naftaly reveals, he interviewed about 40 candidates before hiring just one. “It’s important for us to get top talent, because we can’t afford to make mistakes. The competition is strong.”

These programmers have been building apps that are highly specialized. “We have specialists in 3D, video, voice, etc., and we are going to be coming out soon with a major application that will feature and meld all those talents together.”

Naftaly expects this upcoming app to have a big impact on the way people use their cell phones, just like Traffic Observer.

“We’ve already got a good reputation, but we feel our new app – really a platform – will further enhance our reputation,” he says.