Feature Stories

Two Alums Develop an App That's Got Game

Two NJIT graduates, James Formanes (left) and Jonah Olayinka, developed a Cranky Alarm app now available in the Apple App Store.

Two NJIT grads have developed an app that’s getting national attention.

The app, called Bomax: The Cranky Alarm, transforms your iPhone into an alarm clock with game. The app turns your iPhone alarm into a mini game that features a cranky character -- one you must defeat to turn off the alarm. And by the time you’ve won the game and silenced the alarm, you should be awake. 

 “Bomax is a cranky game character with pesky attitude that is guaranteed to wake you,” says James Formanes, an NJIT alum who created the iOS app with fellow NJIT grad Jonah Olayinka.

Both James and Jonah graduated in 2001 with degrees in mechanical engineering.  During the day, the two work as engineers for the Picatinny Arsenal, in Rockaway, N.J. But in their free time they founded a mobile app development company called Interactive Time.

Bomax, their first app, is now available in the Apple App Store. Ordinarily the app would cost 99 cents. But as part of a limited-time, back-to-school special the app is now free. So at no cost, you can wake up with a bang – and a mini game -- and be on time for your classes or job, say James and Jonah.

The app offers an array of noises to wake you, from a buzzing bee to a jackhammer to a rooster. You can even program your own voice to wake you. The app offers three games that you can program into your iPhone: Whack-A-Clock, Dunk the Clock and 3-Mug Monte.  

Bomax was recommended as a best back to school app by CBS2’s technology expert Sree Sreenivasan.  It’s also been reviewed favorably by tech websites and blogs such as AppCraver and TopTenREVIEWS.  

In this interview, the two discuss their new app-making venture while also describing how their engineering backgrounds helped them start a company and develop a product.

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Talk about your day jobs.  And how did you get your jobs?

We both work for the U.S Department of Defense at Picatinny Arsenal, NJ.  We both found our jobs by attending the NJIT Career Fair in 2000. We’ve been working at Picatinny Arsenal since then. (James is a systems engineer while Jonah is a design engineering lead). 

How did you start making apps?

We brainstormed an idea and thought the idea would best be applicable to the app market. We thought the app industry is growing and would be the best market for Bomax the Cranky Alarm App since it is such an evolving and interesting market. "There is an app for that" is the latest expression nowadays.

Did the two of you do different work on the app?   

It took approximately 8 months of collaborative communication with the designers and coders to build, beta test and release the app, after which we had it approved into the Apple App store. We managed the entire project and both contributed to every aspect of the app development and design. We communicated regularly on a weekly basis via email, Skype, and face-to-face meetings, especially during lunch at work.

You have a small startup company and your first app. Talk about how being engineers helped you with business and product development?

Engineers are typically characterized as thinkers, problem solvers and hard workers who possess discipline and organizational skills. These characteristics are also applicable in business. So when forming our business, Interactive Time, we knew that to meet the goal of developing the mobile application we had to closely manage the deadlines and delivery schedules between designers and coders.  Having an NJIT engineering background definitely helped us focus to stay on top of the project, so that we could meet deadlines and keep our costs in line with our budget.

Is it fun and rewarding to have your own start up and a successful first product? Also, what’s the biggest challenge you face?

It is definitely a rewarding experience that you can say you have taken an idea and turned it into a real product. That is truly an achievement in itself and we are very proud of that. Once the Bomax the Cranky Alarm App was approved into Apple App Store we knew that, ‘This is where the real WORK begins.’ The main challenge we face right now is marketing. In a sea of apps, you need to stand out and be unique. And we feel our app is unique and appeals to a large demographic -- from teenagers to young adults – and that it will find a large audience. For now we'll focus on refining this app. Then we'll develop more apps and see where that takes us.

By Robert Florida