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Jamaican developers spark BlackBerry movement

Published:Thursday | March 22, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Ainsley Walters, Gleaner Writer

EVERYBODY has them on their smartphones and tablet computers. In fact, some swear they can't live without them.

Mobile applications, also called mobile apps, in layman's terms, could be termed 'Computing for Dummies'. They are easy to download, attractive and user friendly. In other words, "so easy, a caveman could do it".

Apps are mini computer programmes which range from dictionaries to Bibles, instant messaging such as BlackBerry Messenger, cross-platform messaging services such as WhatsApp, media content as in Gleaner Mobile, BBC, CNN, ScoreMobile for sport fans, stopwatches, weather alerts, flight details - and the list goes on, longer than space will permit for this entire article.

When a group of young, enterprising Jamaican university students, all past 25 but none older than 30, ran out of party ideas one night, they came up with Tump!, a leisure and entertainment app which not only lists nearby eateries and hot night spots, but also gives specific location via a map.

BlackBerry App World describes Tump! as "a free BlackBerry application that delivers lifestyle services and local search. Access 'Places', 'Events', 'Free Apps' and much more! The application has five key features: Around me, Nightlife, iWant, Freenis and Map it".

Tump!'s 'Around Me' feature provides users with the ability to view businesses in the immediate vicinity within a fixed radius.

Ideal for locals planning a night out on the town and super for tourists wanting to hop across the island instead of being holed up in an all-inclusive, Tump! is the app to have.

The idea

"We were at Cuddy'z and we were trying to think of the next place to go," explained Rory Burchenson. "We had no idea where to go and someone said wouldn't it be cool to go on our phones and find somewhere to go. That's where the idea really started (October 2010)."

Burchenson described Tump!'s founders, five of them, as "a group of friends from various backgrounds".

"We saw a need, came together and built on it. Basically, we saw the exponential growth of smartphones in Jamaica, especially the BlackBerry," he added.

Omarie Case is lead developer, having built the search engine and everything surrounding the app. He is in charge of development and attends the University of the West Indies (UWI).

Glenford Dickson supports Case on app development and is in charge of the app's engine.

"The engine is what drives the app, he's in charge of the back end," Burchenson pointed out.

Dickson attends the HEART Trust/NTA's Vocational Training Development Institute (VTDI).

Ramon Dunkley, another VTDI student, is the database administrator. He controls all data, "so we can track usage, phones downloading the app, he controls and reports the flow," explained Burchenson, a UWI graduate with a background in psychology but "heavily tech-based".

Christopher Hinds is in charge of web development, whereas Burchenson is the commercial and project manager responsible for "the look, feel and customer interface of the app".

The group remained true to their Jamaican roots and has called their company Lymejuice.

Tump! Is rated four out of five stars in BlackBerry App World by users who are harsh critics based on reviews posted.

"It took the better part of six months," said Burchenson. "We did a lot of planning, how we wanted it to be ... what elements to have. We did the actual building and beta tested it for around two months, that's having a closed user group.

"In a beta-testing scenario, you're looking to people to give you feedback on the look, design, also the function of the app, what function they like, don't like. Basically, how simple it is to use. We didn't have to do any radical changes," he added.

Premium listings

Burchenson is ready to take Tump! commercial through its premium listings for companies.

"What we provide is a platform that can be commercialised. We offer premium listings. A business purchasing a premium listing gets a business page and the opportunity to go in and inset specials and promotions. The app would alert users to these promotions," he explained.

Included in the premium-listing offer are features such as business addresses, click to map, two telephone numbers, an email address, business description, live deals, company logo, website, facebook page, twitter, among others.

After Tump! was submitted to BlackBerry's parent company, Research In Motion, it was twice featured on APP World in the first week of September 2011.

"This app was built very solid. We didn't have to go back and redevelop anything," said Burchenson.

Lymejuice wants in on the multibillion-dollar app industry.

World Mobile Applications Market reported in January 2011 that the mobile app market would have grown from US$6.8 billion in 2011 to US$25 billion over the next four years.

That same month, reported estimated 2013 app revenue at US$29.5 billion. By 2014, it is estimated that worldwide app revenue will be at US$35 billion.

"The larger vision for Tump! is a five-year plan," said Burchenson. "It is being used in other Caribbean islands. On 'Map It', we allow persons to use their phones and map locations, a la Wikipedia. We have 'administrators' in most territories of the Caribbean.

"The main ones are Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. We want to network the entire Caribbean so if you're travelling to St Kitts you don't get lost, just take out Tump! and you're okay."