Erwin James Will, a senior integrated science and technology major, faced the same problems that many college students encounter on a busy Saturday night.
“I was tired of going out at night and being ready to leave and everyone asking if anyone had a cab number. Then when we did get back, everyone would want to order something, then start the process of finding menus and numbers,” Will said.
That’s why he created JMU AfterDark, an app that offers students easy access to phone numbers for local food deliveries, bars and cabs.
“I developed the app because I wanted it and I could not find anything like it,” Will said.
JMU AfterDark is a product of Will’s programming classes on campus, through which he became immersed with the application market. His app features a streamlined layout and constant updates to keep up with businesses in the area. Will even posts his contact information on the app so people can submit new ideas or places to promote.
“Right now I am working on a redesign which will make the app better, easier to update and will provide a lot of new features,” Will said.
JMU AfterDark works by organizing the phone numbers of local eateries, bars and cabs by their name and location. This allows a student to find the closest thing available or place orders in advance. Many of the restaurants on the app also work in collaboration with Urbanspoon.com, making menus and daily specials readily available for anyone to see.
Where the application really shows its inventiveness is with the sober driver feature. Users can advertise themselves as sober drivers for a selected period of time, offering services to other users of JMU AfterDark. It even keeps up a queue with JMU SafeRides to inform users of how many people are available for pick up.
Christian Robinson, a senior philosophy major, handles the marketing and business development side of JMU AfterDark and explained the application’s financial potential.
“We have two revenue streams, one from ads and the other from those who purchase the application without ads,” Robinson said. “JMU AfterDark Lite is free, which means that it makes money from advertisements, but JMU AfterDark is $1.00 per download, which means that the money comes directly from the purchase of the application.”
No matter which application you get, with or without advertisements, both can really assist the developers. Robinson is looking to expand the app to potentially cover D.C., Charlottesville and Blacksburg. Robinson and Will started the program by focusing on Harrisonburg’s busy college scene, but the system is efficient enough to work for many other markets.
“We have the opportunity to give our demographic something that they can depend on to make their nightlife a bit easier,” Robinson said.
One of the earliest users of the app, Maddy Bryant, a senior geographic science major, thought that the app was always easy to use and really helpful for local businesses.
“The best function, and the function I use the most, is looking up the different daily specials at the local bars, and also the easy access to different cab companies’ phone numbers is a useful function as well,” Bryant said.
Because the smartphone market is relatively new and successful, Will has several more ideas in development and is looking for volunteers to help. He is currently working with the JMU chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers to build a mobile app for SafeRides.
Over time, the application may change its name to be more accessible to a wider audience, but just remember that this app, for anyone looking to simplify their next bar crawl, came from the busy minds of JMU’s ISAT department.
Contact Scott Johnson at email@example.com.