Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A pair of Tucson brothers aim to render police scanners obsolete.

Information from: Arizona Daily Star ( ) and the SCAN-L newsgroup (James Richardson).

Parker and Marshall Minardo, owners of a software company called EdgeRift, created a $1 iPhone application called Emergency Radio that gives users ccess to more than 1,200 radio feeds from police, fire and emergency frequencies around the country.

Within days of its launch in early May, the application shot up to No. 2 on Apple's list of paid applications. As of Friday, Emergency Radio was still ranked in the top 40.9

More than 180,000 iPhone and iPod Touch owners have downloaded Emergency Radio, and the application is currently averaging between 1,000 and 1,200 downloads per day, said 20-year-old Parker, Edgerift's CEO.

The Minardos who run the business out of their Tucson home keep 70 cents from each sale, so the application is making the brothers flush with cash.

"Maybe we'll go out to breakfast," deadpanned Marshall, 26, the company president. "We haven't made any plans to celebrate. We're just trying to keep it going."

A free version of the application, which lets you listen to emergency feeds in a few big cities, has been downloaded 80,000 times.

The application taps into the groundwork laid by ScanAmerica part of the network which streams the scanner feeds. Emergency Radio makes the feeds easy to access on the iPhone and also lists the police, fire and rescue squads' codes and their definitions so you can understand what the emergency workers are talking about.

EdgeRift was not exactly an overnight success.

It all started in 2001, when Parker started developing applications for personal digital assistants.

He and Marshall formed a business called PDA Performance that found limited success selling applications that organized contacts and streamlined the user interface.

In 2004, the company moved to Tucson so Marshall could earn a political science degree from the University of Arizona. The brothers relaunched the company as EdgeRift in February 2008 and shifted the focus to developing software for the burgeoning iPhone.

"All the top apps were entertainment and games, and we were thinking of what would be fun and exciting on the iPhone," Parker said. "It kind of occurred to us that with all the online feeds from emergency and police scanners, there was no easy way to access them and play them on the iPhone.

We thought it would be great if we could do that."

It took the duo four weeks to put the application together, with Parker handling programming while Marshall worked on logistics, such as customer support and day-to-day operations. Apple approved the application on April 18 and released it in early May.

Emergency Radio caught fire, picking up 50 sales the first day, then doubling for the next several days.

"It appeals to so many different people out there," Parker said. "Policemen and firemen are e-mailing us, and they're so excited they love it. It really worked out well."

The Minardos will release a free update to the program next month and are considering working on a version for the BlackBerry. The brothers say they work 80 hours a week and are considering renting out an office and hiring one or more employees to help with the workload.

"It's very strange," Marshall said. "We worked very hard for this one. We never expected anything like this. It's just unbelievable."