In the future, if you get into a car accident, have a medical emergency, or are kidnapped, your watch might call 911 for you.
Snap One, the cloud computing company based in the Princeton Service Center, is turning its focus to wearables. CEO Jiren Parikh believes security features are a natural fit for devices like the Fitbit, an exercise-tracking wristband. For example, those devices could easily be used for location monitoring much like smartphones are today. Many wearable devices also have heart rate sensors and accelerometers, which could be used to measure health or automatically summon help in case of car accidents or other emergencies.
Parikh says Snap One is developing technology called a “predictive action engine” that will make such features possible. “Let’s say you’re driving your car and you’ve got a Fitbit band on,” Parikh says. “It senses your heart rate is past the normal rate. Then it senses a sudden acceleration of the car, and then a massive deceleration. You take that data, and the known location of your car, and send that data to friends, family, and 911 with your location.”
The technology could also be used with Alzheimer’s patients to let caregivers and family members know if the person is traveling outside of the normal places they go.
“The next phase is building out all these predictive analytics, from combining sensors, wearables, smart devices, and really cool stuff like that,” he says. “That’s what we’re working on.”
Even as it develops these tools, Snap One is staying down to earth by bringing by launching its security service, called Snap Secure, as a retail product available in Verizon Wireless stores, Target, Office Depot, and other stores.
Snap Secure is actually a whole range of services including data backup, malware protection, data synchronizing, call and text monitoring, driver safety monitoring, family member location monitoring, remote smartphone locating and wiping, and more. Snap Secure starts at $9.99 a month or $99 a year for six people.
The emphasis on Snap Secure and its security products is a step in the evolution of the company, which has recently downsized and is shifting resources away from some of its older products. Parikh says Snap One (which was called Snap MyLife until 2012) is now emphasizing its security platform, and selling it as a feature of third-party products and services, such as insurance.
“Our partner focuses are telecoms, wireless operators, and insurance providers who want to provide these value-added life security products,” Parikh says.
The family security suite of services, sold bundled with cloud computing services as Snap Secure, and separately as Snap Familysafe, includes tools that allow family members to track one another’s locations, and for parents to keep an eye on their children.
The Safety Zone feature allows parents to use a mobile device or web portal to see the location of their child’s phone on a map, set locations where they expect them to be, and to receive alerts if the child leaves the “safety zone” the parent has pre-designated.
Family Locate does something similar, but shows the general location of each family member’s device.
The company’s driver safety feature can be enabled on the phone of a teen driver and will automatically send parents an alert if their child is texting, making phone calls, or browsing the Internet while driving.
The SOS alert feature sends texts, E-mails, and voicemails, all with the phone’s exact location, at the push of a button.
Snap FamilySafe is the “people security” part of Snap One’s triad of security services, which also includes “device security” and “data security,” Parikh says. The groundwork for offering the “people security” services was laid in 2011, when Snap One bought a company called SMRTGuard. The rest of the services were developed in-house. Snap One also plans to launch a new range of financial security and identity security services that it developed in house.
Snap One is moving away from the media services and photo and imaging apps that the company focused on when it was launched in 2000 under the name Exclaim. Its first product, now called Snap Mobile, allowed people to share photos from camera phones that were not smartphones.
“That’s kind of a dying legacy product that we don’t sell anymore,” Parikh says. “Feature phones are becoming nonexistent, and everybody’s moving to smartphones. We think this Christmas there will be a huge jump in people moving from feature phones to Android devices. Those products, we’ve kind of de-emphasized.”
Parikh grew up in Hillsborough and moved around a lot as a child. His father was a research and development executive for pharmaceutical companies, and worked for Johnson & Johnson until he retired. Parikh never went to college, instead going into sales and marketing and founding the United States operations of Netherlands-based tech company Elektroson B.V. He later worked for other tech companies including Infonautics and Broadbeam Corporation. When he joined Exclaim in 2006, he was an outside consultant with Sycamore Ventures. By 2008 Exclaim’s business had slowed down, and the company was deeply in debt.
In 2009 Parikh re-launched the company as Exclaim Mobile, with four employees, to market Pictavision, which is now the “dying” Snap Mobile.
In the early 2010s, backed by Lenox Drive-based venture capital firm Edison Ventures, the company embarked on a series of acquisitions that laid the groundwork for its cloud computing-based future. It bought cloud computing company Mobicious in 2010, and parts of media streaming company Didiom in 2011. It also bought SMRTGuard, and Frame Channel, a company that had technology that enabled users to send content from a computer to any screen with a device. In 2012 it bought Inkubook, a photo sharing platform. The company is still backed by Edison, which now goes by Edison Partners.
By late 2012, Snap Mylife had 110 employees, and offices in Bangalore, India, and Madrid. But many of those employees came from the acquired companies, and Parikh says Snap One had to downsize. Now, a core team of 38 people works at the Princeton office, and 32 more are in India performing customer service, quality assurance, back office work, and analytics.
Because Snap One stores the private information of users, including photos, security is a big concern. Recent well-publicized hacks of private photos from Apples iCloud cloud computing platform have shown the dangers of storing private files online, even when protected by a password. Parikh says SnapOne will introduce two-factor identification in December, a more secure method of logging into accounts that requires a password as well as a code texted to a phone or sent to an E-mail address.
The increased security measures are fitting for a company that is repositioning itself towards products that are designed to make people feel safe. “We are focused on helping people secure their loved ones and themselves, and their digital life,” Parikh says.
— Diccon Hyatt
Snap One, 3490 Route 1, Princeton Service Center, Building 16, Princeton 08540; 609-720-1900; fax, 609-720-1911. Jiren Parikh, CEO. www.snapone.com.