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Senior awarded $8,000 for social media app

Published: Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 08:11

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Kyra Sturgill / The Tufts Daily

Senior Foster Lockwood won the $8,000 Paul and Elizabeth Montle Prize for Entrepreneurial Achievement for his creation of an iPhone messaging application called Wyre.

 

This month, senior Foster Lockwood was awarded $8,000 from the Paul and Elizabeth Montle Prize for Entrepreneurial Achievement for his messaging application Wyre, currently available on the iPhone and iPad.

Lockwood, a computer science major and entrepreneurial leadership studies minor, applied for the Montle award after developing the pilot version of Wyre at the beginning of the school year. 

Wyre is described in the App Store as “a user-friendly messaging tool designed for fast and comprehensive communication,” and iOSnoops.com rated it five stars. The free app allows users to easily share “wyres” such as audio clips, video clips, YouTube videos, photos, in-app drawings, locations, contacts and calendar events. 

While many of these capabilities already exist on the iOS platform, Wyre fully integrates these options into one convenient location, Lockwood said. 

It also allows users to delete already-sent wyres from a receiver’s phone because all the data is encrypted and stored on a backend server rather than on the receiver’s phone, he added.

“It’s often that we are translating our experiences into text,” Lockwood said. “The goal of Wyre was to make it equally accessible in any kind of medium.”

He explained that the name Wyre was chosen ironically, since wires are a very old technology for communication. 

The inspiration for the app came this past summer when Lockwood was trying to leave a voicemail for his girlfriend and began to wonder if there was an app for easily sending someone an audio message. From there, the idea moved beyond simply text and audio, he said. 

“It’s not a novel idea,” Lockwood said, acknowledging that he found inspiration in popular apps like WhatsApp, which allows users to send each other texts, photos, videos and locations. However, Lockwood believes such apps are still too focused on texting. 

“People are looking for alternatives,” he said.

Last week, over 1,100 users around the world had signed up for Wyre, and over 500 of them were verified and active, according to Lockwood. 

Senior Brad DeBattista, a friend of Lockwood’s, was one of Wyre’s first users. DeBattista beta tested the app before it moved to the App Store, helping to brainstorm new features such as sharing calendar events.

“Some of these things you can already do through plain old iPhone, but it’s very involved, it’s too many clicks, it’s not readily available,” DeBattista said. “I think Wyre is really good because it takes all of the capabilities that you have, and maybe didn’t even know you had, in your phone and puts it all in one place.”

The Montle prize was awarded to Wyre and two other social media projects, including a social networking site geared towards academics and a mobile app for mental health patients, according to Program Specialist for Scholar Development Anne Moore.

“There are existing things like [Wyre], but they are really buggy,” she said. “There’s a real hole in the market for something that works like that.”

According to Moore, the prize focuses on originality and room for expansion, seeking to help companies attain real longevity.

“I’m ecstatic,” Lockwood said. “It’s really important to me that Tufts promotes this kind of development outside of academia.”

The funding will help Lockwood market the product, continue programming updates and develop the app for other platforms. He plans to expand Wyre beyond iOS to other platforms, such as the Android and the desktop computer.

“It’s less of a problem of it being useful, and more of a problem of it being ubiquitous,” Lockwood said.

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