The Quiet Zone app icon shows a happy face to show it is enabled. GARY S. HATRICK
GARY S. HATRICK Tribune correspondent
Published: May 4, 2013
ZEPHYRHILLS While a ban on texting while driving awaits a signature from Gov. Rick Scott, a computer technician has developed a device and an application that would help parents enforce the pending law.
Brandon Butts, 26, of Anything Computers on Fifth Avenue in Zephyrhills, came up with the idea in January. “A business owner’s phone is ringing constantly; I said, ‘I want to be able to walk into one room and the phone not go off,’” Butts said.
The device is called “Quiet Zone.” It has two forms: one for a building and another for vehicles. The building model came first.
“Basically it transmits a signal that, (for) anybody that has our app, whenever they walk in range of the signal their phone just goes to ‘silent’ or ‘vibrate’ depending on the user setting,” Butts said. “So if you walk into church, and you have the app, and they have the device, your phone just silences itself automatically. You walk into the movie theater it will actually silence it and it will dim your screen.”
A peel-and-stick notification will be available to put on the front of buildings to notify those with the app that the device is installed.
“We’ve just gotten our car model ready,” Butts said. “When you hook this up into your car, and you have the app on your phone, you won’t be able to open up your text messages so you won’t be able to send text messages. You’ll be able to receive text messages but you can’t open the message application. So our newest device will stop you from texting going down the road, so it’s a lifesaver.”
Quiet Zone requires installation of a device. The device has a range of 100 meters unobstructed. It goes through some walls, but like any wireless signal it can only penetrate so much before the signal gets weak, Butts said. To use the device a person must download the app on their phone.
The device costs $249 and the app is free. Butts has sold 75 units to high schools and churches, though he said he has not launched the company or begun marketing the product. He is working on paid upgrades to the basic app. One upgrade would allow specific numbers to get through; another would allow the service to be set by GPS for facilities that do not have Quiet Zone installed.
“The closest thing to our competition is a cellphone jammer,” Butts said. “The cellphone jammers cost way more money and the problems with jammers are if someone called you and doesn’t leave a voicemail, you have no record that they ever called you. A jammer just makes it so your phone is off. With our system if someone is calling you, you still get a vibration you’ll still see your missed calls and your call logs.”
Butts and his investors think Quiet Zone will take off. “The way cellphones are invading all of our lives every moment of every day, it’s kind of nice to get away for a minute, or retake our serious moments, and not have to worry about beep, beep, beep, ring, ring, ring,” Butts said.
The car device installs into the dashboard.
“As soon as you turn the car on it enables the system and when the car gets turned off the transmitter gets turned off and one can start texting again,” Butts said.
“It will be a hassle effort for the kids to unhook and if they do that’s where parenting comes in,” Butts said. “(Parents can say) ‘If you don’t want to use the device you don’t get to drive.’ We’re setting up a monitoring service now so that if the child uninstalls it, the parents get notified that the child has disabled the device.”
Butts said he hopes automobile dealers and manufacturers will be receptive to the device.
“I’d like to see these things pre-manufactured in the newest cars.”