Making use of unproductive commuting time is the aim of a New Zealand created app, which allows users to safely check their email while driving.

Speaking Email reads emails aloud, so that users can make their commute time productive, while keeping their eyes on the road.

The app was developed by small Auckland web development company, beweb, after director Mike Nelson got frustrated with the lack of such a product on the market.

“Like many people, I get so many emails a day and it is impossible to get through them all. Living in Auckland, I waste almost an hour a day driving and I wanted to use that time productively. Using this app I get an extra hour of chargeable work done every day.

“I got sick of waiting for someone else to create an out-loud email, or for Siri to get to the stage where she is helpful. That’s when I decided to have a go at creating an app.”

Mr Nelson says one of the latest buzz words around work productivity is ‘inbox zero’ – encouraging  people to stop having inboxes full of messages, but to keep on top of emails and deal with them as you go.

“The theory is people with cluttered inboxes and unread messages waste a lot of time. We’ve created Speaking Email around this – you use unproductive time to get on top of your emails, and with a simple tap can archive, star or flag an email while on the go.”

Safety is another key feature of the app, and Mr Nelson says it has been designed to minimise the amount of time drivers need to look at a screen, or touch the screen.

A quick glance screen for images is all that is needed – all text is read aloud. Then users can easily triage their email – easy tap or swipe functions allow emails to be archived, flagged or swiped to skip reading. There is also a quick reply feature with pre-loaded text for a ‘thanks’ or ‘ok’.

“We purposely don’t encourage typed replies because that is cumbersome and dangerous when people are on the roads,” he says.

Mr Nelson says the latest trend in technology is to create apps, systems and hardware that requires only a quick glance or fast tap to access and review information.

“It’s exciting to have created something that is using the latest technology and the latest trends, but is also a massively useful product,” he says.

Although specifically developed with drivers in mind, Mr Nelson says runners, walkers and gym goers will also find it useful.

“Because of the minimal need to look at the screen, it is a great way to use exercise time to also get on top of your inbox. With the use of a phone armband and a pair of headphones – you can look like you’re listening to music, but actually be working! “

Mr Nelson uses Speaking Email every day and says it feels extremely satisfying to walk into the door at work and already know what his emails say.

“Who doesn’t struggle to get on top of their emails these days? I think there is a huge market for a product like this.

“I specifically designed Speaking Email for people who drive from home to the office, and need to be on top of their emails when they get there. But it would also be a great system for people who are on the road much of the day – such as salespeople and tradespeople,” he says.

Speaking Email has the flexibility for users to set it up the way that suits their email use – from speaking all emails, just those previously not read out, or only new emails. There’s also options for using multiple accounts and different ways for users to triage their emails.

Speaking Email can now be downloaded on the app store.  It currently works on Gmail and will next be available for, Yahoo Mail, iCloud, Exchange and IMAP.

“We’ve made it free to download, so now’s the time to give it a go. Once we have it out in the market more, we will start to charge US$10,” Mr Nelson says.

Beweb has been developing websites and web applications for New Zealand companies since 2000. Speaking Email is the company’s first app.

“We saw this as an opportunity to not only create an app that we wanted to use, but to learn the process of creating, launching and marketing an app.

“Every aspect of this project has been a lot harder and more time consuming that we would have thought it would be. But it has also been fun and a great way to learn. We now have a lot more knowledge and understanding of apps, and we are able to share this knowledge with our own clients.

“I’m really proud of what we’ve created. It started off as a small idea – and we’ve funded it all ourselves and created it by ourselves.  We haven’t looked for any partners or funding, because we didn’t want to compromise on how we wanted Speaking Email to work.”

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