He is 17 years old.
But Nick Entin of Palos Verdes isn’t just another high school skier, though there’s nothing in his outward appearance to suggest otherwise.
And then he whips out his iPhone. On it is his imaginative, 99-cent iPhone application, called Emergency Beacon. With one push of a button he can connect with first responders in case of an emergency.
“He’s got an engineering mind, but he’s leaned to make software applications,” said his dad, Lou, an engineer at Raytheon, the major American defense contractor and industrial corporation with core manufacturing concentrations in weapons and military and commercial electronics.
“He’s got a very physics and mathematics mind,” he said. “But all the software activity he’s picked up on his own. I’m a circuits kind of guy, on the systems side of things.”
Lou’s a smart guy, but his eyes just about popped out of their sockets when he saw what his son had created last summer.
“All of a sudden I looked up and he’d written this application. I can tell him how computers work, but I’m not on the software end of things. We (along with mom Sue) are pretty proud of him.”
Nick began his work on Emergency Beacon a year ago as he stood atop Mammoth Mountain. Last season was a record year for snowfall, and though he’s been skiing since he was 4 years old, he said he knew conditions were gnarly up there at the top.
“I was on top of the mountain and I was thinking what would happen if there was an avalanche or something and you’re need of help and no one knows exactly where you are.
“I’ve always been interested in computers and computing. I wanted some type of emergency tool, so I started looking into it. Was it possible? How hard would be? I already had the skills to do it and started working on it. I’ve always been interested in computers ever since I was a little kid.”
He said he spent last summer learning the ins and outs of writing an iPhone application, and not just the code writing. There were business decisions to be made if this was going to work.
The application also had to meet Apple’s licensing procedures. He had to learn marketing, too.
Of the application itself, Entin said, “It’s fairly reliable, but it depends on where you are. How accurate it’s going to be is based on the device itself, and I can’t control that. It needs to reach GPS.
“But it’s as accurate as any GPS device like this. You’re not going to be able find anything on an iPhone that’s more accurate. I know you can find something that’s more accurate, with a specified app for that.
But for a device that you already carry, it’s about as accurate as you can get.”
The application is ridiculously easy to use, and it’s not just for skiing. If you’re in the outdoors backpacking or fly-fishing, users can use Emergency Beacon for that, too.
If your vehicle is not quipped with GoldStar GPS device, you can use Entin’s application for that as well.
“The original one took a couple of months over my summer break, but it’s gone through couple of revisions since then. People suggested I should add that and maybe you should add this.
“I get a lot of feedback through my website. But if there’s a problem I can adjust that. I’m on version 2.1 right now.”
He also has a spiffy marketing brochure, a contact at Scouting magazine, and he’s been featured on at least two Los Angeles television stations.
“In the beginning it was kind of daunting,” he said. “There are so many things you have to do. I wrote thousands of lines of code.”
Next up for Entin is to write an application for Android, and he said he will begin work on that in the coming summer.
First, he has to complete on more year of high school, search for a college that can satisfy his computer skills and also offer a top-drawer business curriculum.
“My aim eventually is that I want to run my own company in software service,” he said.
Plus he has to finish Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve Jobs, perfect his fly-fishing, backpacking and other outdoor activities, along with writing code and creating websites—another business venture he is involved in.
For now, though, he can take a school vacation breather and market Emergency Beacon.
“It’s a real useful tool for people who need help,” he said. “It has the potential for saving for your life and it’s only 99 cents.”