Moby is designed by GPS and location-based services applications expert Contigo. It’s a private location-sharing app for the people who matter most to you. The mobile app, built using the PhoneGap framework, answers the question, "Where are you?" by sharing users' coordinates with family and friends. Unlike similar services, Moby only shares your location with the people you choose, for the length of time you want. Moby also acts as a personal safety app allowing users to request help from family and friends at the touch of a button.
"Moby is especially useful for families. Parents can request a ‘check in’ from their kids, or send their own ‘check in’ to one or more people, along with a quick message. And when you can't get help on your own, Moby comes into play,” said Rob Goehring, Contigo VP of Product Management and Marketing.
Today, Moby's primary audience is families, but the mobile app was originally designed for real estate agents. Real estate agents are one of the few professions where it's a normal part of the job to meet people for the first time alone and at an unfamiliar location, sometimes at night. Because almost 60% of real estate agents are women, personal safety is a pressing issue.
The first version of Moby was built for Blackberry in late 2010, primarily because BlackBerry was the most dominant device for real estate agents at the time. But Contigo Director of Product Management, Neil Parker, knew cross platform would become a priority in short order. "We always had the vision that Moby would work across platforms," he said. "When Verizon announced it would be selling the iPhone in early 2011 we began looking at a development environment for Moby that would allow the code to be ported to multiple devices."
Another reason Contigo settled on PhoneGap was so its developers could work directly with PhoneGap creators at Nitobi, also a Vancouver company. “Developing a face-to-face relationship with PhoneGap visionaries is beneficial for Moby. We’ve been through remote, third party development a few times and have discovered that we prefer to work with a local firm," said Goehring.
Finally, PhoneGap fits into Contigo's open source mandate. The vast majority of the software Contigo uses is open source, including its database system. "Our team is comfortable using open source. Embracing an open source ethos has saved us a lot of money over the decade we've been in business," said Goehring.
From a project management standpoint, PhoneGap meshes with the Contigo development process. Parker says it’s easy to iterate with PhoneGap because developers can prototype and then render on the handset easily, and then quickly change it up. “With PhoneGap you can fail fast,” he added.
Parker knew that there would be some trade-offs using the cross-platform approach, but he and the development team had to make only a few compromises along the way in order to realize the benefits of the PhoneGap environment. Its flexibility really came into play when Contigo developers were able to take the best things about PhoneGap's location API and then substitute their own location manager, which they say helps extend battery life.
“We like being part of the PhoneGap community,” says Parker. “We want to be the kind of developers who capture, record and give back.”
Feedback from the iOS version of Moby has been positive so far: “It’s easy to register and use. Will be good to get my kid to check in when they're out and about,” reports one reviewer.
Moby is currently available for BlackBerry and iPhone, and will be ported to Android in early September.