take data from smart phones -- including the signal strength and where the
phone is on a user's body -- and alerts users whenever the radiation
reaches the "red level." This is actually an arbitrary cutoff, but if someone is talking on the phone,
it will prompt them to put on headphones.
"Most of us are not riding a donkey to our office. We're riding our
cars and putting our seat belts on."
The tawkon app produces snazzy
graphs that let users to track their exposure to radiation over the
course of a phone call, a day, or a week. An icon on the phone screen
constantly updates the current level of radiation, from "green" to
"yellow" to "red." Friedlander said that user feedback has
indicated that this is an "addictive" feature, with people constantly
checking their level of radiation exposure before each call.
problem with this sophisticated data system is that the designation of
"green" versus "red" levels of radiation has no scientific basis at
all. Friedlander said the company consulted
with researchers, but since there's no clear evidence about how
much radiation is too much, they had to wing it.
They divided the
spectrum of radiation into three equal parts, and called the lowest
third "green" and the highest third "red." Users can adjust the
radiation threshold levels to send them warning signals at whatever
level they choose -- after all, their guess is as good as tawkon's. Is
"green" actually unsafe? Is "red" totally safe? Nobody knows.
of thousands" of people are using the tawkon's BlackBerry app,
Friedlander said, and the beta version of their free Android app
launched at TechCrunch Disrupt this week. The company is looking for
more investors, in hopes of scaling up its product as quickly as
possible. The Blackberry app costs $9.99, and the free Android app is ad-supported.
Of course, Friedlander noted, it's still possible that
research will reveal that cell phone radiation is totally benign. But
he said there's nothing wrong with marketing tawkon in the meantime.
After all, health authorities in many countries recommend caution in
dealing with cell phone radiation, especially with children. For those
who are anxious -- perhaps even too anxious to own a cellphone -- tawkon is
building a publicly available map of worldwide cell phone radiation
levels, based on anonymous data from their individual Android users.
has barred tawkon from its app store, initially telling the company
that the app "would create confusion
with users." Friedlander interpreted this as meaning that Apple was
worried that customers would freak out about the hazards of their iPhone. He said "thousands" of iPhone users had emailed tawkon
about geting the app for their phones. Since the initial rebuff, tawkon
has had friendly interactions with Apple reps, but the app still isn't
in the store. (Apple has yet to respond to a request for comment.)
Meanwhile, Friedlander said, the BlackBerry version of tawkon is proving surprisingly
popular in the developing world, even though he had assumed countries
like China and India would have "other issues to deal with before
mobile phone radiation."
He's betting that science will eventually justify the need for his product. From his
reading of the available research, he said, "I think there's a smoking gun there