A new app called Ransomly developed by 39-year old Zach Prager aims to let people unplug from technology and focus more on what is happening offline. How? By blocking apps like Facebook, Instagram or WhatsApp for a certain time in certain locations. Or “holding the app for ransom” as Ransomly likes to call it.
Too much of something is never a good thing. Your dentist says too much sugar, is bad for your teeth. Your doctor warns you to go easy on the alcohol consumption during this period of the year. But spending hours and hours on tablets, laptops or smartphones seem to be socially accepted these days.
Based on a study by Informate Mobile Intelligence, an average American spends around 5 hours a day on his phone, that is a third of the time that he is awake every day. As Prager stated: “A lot of research shows that when people use their phones too much it’s causing rifts and drama in their relationships,”.
To prevent people the drama and conflicts, Prager and four other part-timers started working on Ransomly a year ago. They hope people will disconnect to connect in the good old fashioned way again. How do they hope to achieve this? By connecting an Android app to a Bluetooth beacon. You can glue this beacon to a table, a lamp, fridge, you name it. From the moment this Bluetooth device is up and running, it will block any app the owner of the app decides to “hold for ransom”. People in a radius of 230 feet around the beacon won’t be able to access the app until the other person unblocks it again. The “ransom” is often something like “Facebook will be blocked until your homework is finished”. Apparently, candy or television is no longer powerful enough to let kids do their homework.
First the dishes, then Facebook
Zach Prager, who is a UCLA graduate, came up with the idea as a consensus for his fiancé’s frustration. He spent a lot of time on Facebook or Instagram instead of helping her with the household tasks. It is in this part of our lives that Prager hopes to make an impact with his app. As an easy-to-use tool for parents to monitor the phone use of their children. But parents seem to have a problem unplugging from technology as well. According to a study by Common Sense media, 28% of children and 29% of parents say they are addicted to their phone. Thus, it wouldn’t be a bad thing if Santa Claus would bring the Ransomly app to the vast majority of American households.
And it is not difficult to give Ransomly as a present. Right now the app is on Kickstarter. Since December 1st it has exceeded its target of $5,000 but you can still back the company. For $35 you’ll receive the Ransomly package which holds the app and the beacon. The company hopes to start shipping out its product by the beginning of February 2017.
Digital Detoxing is the next big thing
I’m writing this article in a bar in Ghent right now and every other person in this bar has at least checked his or her phone twice since I walked in. I’ve been here for 45 minutes now. But this is a general trend in every city around the world. Every moment we have time to kill, we pull our phone out of our pockets. We walk around without looking where we going and endanger others while doing it. But what really demonstrates the problem is the usage of phones behind the steering wheel.
Do me a favor and look right and left at any traffic light. Honk every time you see someone using their phone. You’ll be honking an awful lot, trust me. But you’ll be doing it for a great cause!
It might look weird, an article about unplugging from technology on a blog about how awesome technology is. But, right now we are heading towards a time where we are wasting too much time on any connected device we own. And that’s not the initial purpose of technology in our society. It is there to make our lives easier, more productive and enjoyable. Fortunately, apps like Ransomly or Digital Detox show that a shift towards a more conscious use of our phones. This reaction will cover more ground soon and will help us realize that there are more important ways to spend our time.
Like having a smartphone free Christmas dinner with your family. Or a New Year’s Eve with your friends where Facebook, Snapchat or Instagram is not allowed. You’ll have awesome stories to tell afterwards!
Discover how Ransomly works in the video below!
In short: Ransomly
In the Imagine That Startup series I cover a startup that is doing great work for the future of our society. Often by implementing new and/or disruptive technologies in a great and powerful way.
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